Phillies Nation Player Review: Cole Hamels – Phillies Nation
2013 Player Reviews

Phillies Nation Player Review: Cole Hamels

The $153-million-dollar man was as good as advertised in 2013 but was plagued by the sixth worst run support in the National League and one of the National League’s worst defenses. Photo by Ian Riccaboni

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.

Player A got a six-year, $147 million contract, Player B got a seven-year, $153 million contract. Both contracts started in 2013. Player A is Zack Greinke, Player B Cole Hamels.

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.



  1. Lefty

    October 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Hamels’ year was similar to Cliff Lee in 2012, and I agree with the grade.

    If there was one thing to pick on, it would be a low grade in one of the most important FIP stats, Home Runs allowed per 9 innings. He was at .86 which ranked him 39th among 81 qualified pitchers, or 38th among 79 qualified starters. But I don’t think most of us need the stat to know he just plain gave up too many dingers. In his defense, you could also say that the park he pitches approximately half his games in, yielded the most HR’s per nine in all of baseball.

    Cole Hamels is an excellent pitcher, and I hope he can stay healthy and continue to pitch well for a long time.

  2. Ken Bland

    October 22, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    This judgement and grade might include the sort of provincial view that tends to place Cole as the Phils best example of a player held in higher comparable regard by pro Phillies observors than general baseball fans.

    The common denominator, with degrees of enthusiasm varying is that Hamles is a very good pitcher, and his year had a lot of positives. The onliest more support than runs he could have used was defense.

    But the fact of the matter is that he had enough rough spots in and of his own doing that you can’t possibly go higher than B+. An A is a special mark anyway. It’, as a barometer of a single season, is reserved for the Kershaws, Fernandes, Harvey types. You wanna give an A to a Wainright, Zimmerman, Lee, that’s no crime. But you gotta respect out and out greatness and separate it from the bunch.

    I also don’t agree with this slam dunk top 10 pitcher in the League for the year. No, I’m NOT taking it too literally. Slam dunk means inarguably. Run 3 polls of separate voters that are as objective as humanity allows, and you won’t get a slam dunk 28-2 final vote. 2 of the 3 10 man polls probably wouldn’t have him comfortably in the top 10. He’d make it, but not convincingly. The 3rd poll, to demonstrate the arguable quality of the guy’s year maybe doesn’t even have him inside the 10 mark..

    I’m quite sure that when bloggers evaluated each year of the Herbert Hoover regime on an annual basis, there would be a scarce minority that would give the man an A grade.

    Pity on them. And the same pity extends to anyone thinking Hamels year was A worthy. B+ is as good as it gets, and frankly, it shouldn’t go any lower. But you can only point fingers away from the pitcher so much for his fairly largely self induced first half miseries.

    • George

      October 22, 2013 at 3:57 pm

      Since when does an “A” mean perfect, or even close to perfect? I might agree that “A” is too high, but I’d also say that “B+” is too low. I fail to see where his “first half miseries” were all that self-induced, either. When bloopers fall between slow footed outfielders and grounders go past rangeless third baseman, they’re called hits, unfortunately, and if those cheap shots produce runs, they’re called “earned.” As was pointed out, I thought sufficiently, in the review, Hamels didn’t just suffer from poor run support, but from shoddy defense. When those things happen, it tends to put more pressure on the pitcher, and most particularly when errors or uncaught popups occur, they cause him to have to throw extra pitches. Other teams’ Kershaws and Wainwrights got the backing and so naturally, they had better and sometimes longer outings.

    • Double Trouble Del

      October 22, 2013 at 6:09 pm

      Ken, I agree 100%. Make that 90% because I would have given a B. There were too many times when Hamels himself failed to make a big pitch or put a batter away. Part of this I acknowledge may be due to poor game calling by his catchers not named Ruiz. Again no hard data but rather an overall feel for his season, it seemed as if batters swung and made contact by fouling off pitches. ( I do see that he through 100 pitches more in 2013 than in 2012.) I also recall a report from early in the season when Hamels complained about a stiff forearm or shoulder or something. Perhaps this too impacted the way he pitched this past year.

      • schmenkman

        October 22, 2013 at 9:37 pm

        Did he have stretches where didn’t pitch that well? Yes. Almost every pitcher does.

        The point is if he had gotten just an *average* level of run support and defense behind him, those instances where he didn’t put a batter away would not have mattered. Ian is right — Hamels was one of the NL’s ten best starters this year, and the “A” is not out of line, IMO.

        Lance Lynn pitched worse than Hamels. He was 15-10.
        Patrick Corbin pitched worse. He was 14-8.
        Jordan Zimmermann pitched about as well as Hamels. He was 19-9.

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