Some folks react to today’s start of the Spring schedule with a shoulder shrug, a yawn. A bigger “why care” is exhibited instead of an “I care”. But, I do care and I’m really looking forward to today’s 1:05 PM start against the Astros.
It is all because of Cole Hamels.
While the pitches Hamels throws today may feel meaningless, and in the grand scheme of the history of the game, they are, there is a greater significance with every appearance, Spring Training or regular season. Hamels is entering the prime of his career, on pace for more than 2,800 career strikeouts, suddenly the leader on a staff with two Cy Young winners who are still pretty good in the own right. He is likely your 2013 Opening Day starter. He is the face of the Phillies no matter if Chase Utley or Carlos Ruiz re-sign after the season or Jimmy Rollins returns after 2014. And he is very quietly halfway through a Hall of Fame career.
It is no secret that Hamels is a very good pitcher, but it is often lost just how good Hamels is. Both traditional and advanced statistics bare this out. Take, for example, this snapshot from his first full season, 2007, until now. The numbers may surprise you:
|2007 – 2012 MLB Rank (Min. 1000 IP)|
|Active Rank||Career Rank|
Having just turned 29, Hamels should have much more MLB success in front of him. With the exception of an un-lucky 2009, Hamels has been one of the most dominant MLB pitchers of the last six years. If he is able to continue his success for another eight seasons at the paces he is on, Hamels would wind up with 2800+ Ks, 195 Wins, and 452 starts as a Phillie. Those stats would rank him second, third, and third all-time among Phillies starting pitchers, behind only Steve Carlton and Robin Roberts. You shouldn’t get too excited yet about where Hamels is projected as there obviously tons of variability in what can happen over the next eight years. But it certainly is OK to be excited about today’s exhibition game.