Blind player test. Ready?
Player A: 231 games started, 91-78, 3.77 ERA, 8.0 K/9 IP, 2.3 BB/9 IP, 1.247 WHIP. 29 years old, injury history from six years prior.
Player B: 211 games started, 91-60, 3.34 ERA, 8.5 K/9 IP, 2.2 BB/9 IP, 1.138 WHIP. 28 years old, injury history from seven years prior.
Why is this context important? Much of the discussion about Hamels’ 2013 season was and will be framed around the $153 million contract he signed midway through the 2012 season. Compared to Greinke, it looks like a bargain: through 2012, Hamels out-paced the former Cy Young award winner in every career category and signed for a little less than $3 million less average annual value (AAV).
On the surface, Hamels underperformed the first year of his contract: Hamels won just eight games, his lowest total since his 2006 rookie season, and posted a 3.60 ERA, his highest since his confusing 2009 campaign. Yet, by every other available measure, Hamels was nearly identical to the pitcher that earned the $153 million deal and was a wonderful anchor for a poor 2013 Phillies squad.For the advanced statistic crowd, Hamels was tied for being the seventh most valuable pitcher in the National League according to FanGraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement level, with 4.2 WAR, a performance worth $20.8 million against a $19.5 million salary for 2013. Hamels was a model of consistency, too in 2013: Hamels pitched the fourth most innings in the National League, behind only Adam Wainwright, presumptive Cy Young Clayton Kershaw, and teammate Cliff Lee, made all 33 starts, and now is the active leader in Major League Baseball in consecutive starts of five innings pitched or more with 75 straight. Hamels ranked fourth in baseball in Quality Starts with 25, behind only Kershaw (27), James Shields (27), and Wainwright (26).
Hamels peripheral stats in 2013 were once again solid, ranking 14th in the NL in K/9 IP, 11th in the NL in BB/9 IP, 12th in FIP, and 10th in xFIP. Hamels was done in by a bout of extreme bad luck in 2013 with Phillies fielding, which was estimated to cost the Phillies four-plus full games in 2013 by advanced metrics, contributing to a .295 BABIP, the seventh-worst in the NL. Hamels was supported by the NL’s sixth worst run support. Ouch.
Grade: A. As flawed and as arbitrary as the Quality Start metric may be, Hamels gave his team a chance to win in 25 of his 33 starts and only came away with eight wins. It is hard to argue with Hamels’ 2013 season but the Win/Loss record and ERA may cause some to pause. Hamels was a slam-dunk, Top-10 starting pitcher in the NL who did not miss a start and went five innings or more in all of them.