If there is one thing that the last two seasons of Phillies baseball proved, it’s this: Dominance can be fleeting. For proof, look no further than Cole Hamels. He was one of the biggest reasons the Phillies won it all in 2008, and ironically, one of the biggest reasons they didn’t win it all in 2009.
He went into last season fresh off a career year, his second full season in the majors, that saw him best opposing teams to the tune of a 3.09 ERA over 227.1 innings. Then October rolled around, and things really got going for the lefty. In five games, he went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA en route to winning both the NLCS and World Series MVP awards, while leading the Phillies to their first title since 1980, thus completing his journey from coveted prospect to staff Ace.
We all know what happened next: The limelight, television appearances, cover stories, a new wife, a new condo, a poor off-season training program, an injury to start 2009, 12 earned runs in his first nine innings, a few good starts, a great start, some bad starts, a few more good starts, bad start, great start, bad start, bad start, playoffs and more bad starts, the questionable walk to Mark Teixiera, the even more questionable two-run tater to Alex Rodriguez, the curveball to Andy Pettitte, game over, Cole wanting it all to end. And it did.
And as spring training approaches, the question remains: Where does that leave Cole?
Well, if you ask MLB.com’s Hal Bodley, it’s somewhere far, far behind Roy Halladay…
But with Halladay replacing Lee at the top of Philadelphia’s rotation this coming season, it might be only slightly better than it was when it lost to the Yankees in six games. After Halladay, it’s Cole Hamels, J. A. Happ, Joe Blanton.
There’s a huge drop-off after Halladay as it was in the World Series last year with Lee — a key reason why the Yankees prevailed.
Granted, Roy is a better pitcher than Cole, at least for right now, but a “huge drop-off?” Hardly. While Cole got a sound beating from the opposition in 2009, it’s very unlikely that he repeats that performance.
And to answer my question: Cole is the Ace. Er. Co-Ace, that is. Right next to Roy.
Despite his struggles last season, Cole Hamels is still one of the best pitchers in the game. If the season started tomorrow, there are no less than 12 teams that Cole could conceivably get the Opening Day nod on. Not only that, but he would be the best pitcher on those teams, too.
Think I’m crazy? Think again.
Our good friend over at The Phontiersman wrote a nice little piece on Cole last season…
It’s not an overwhelming case, but a fair portion of the numbers suggest that Cole’s 2009 seasons was as good as – if not better than, in some aspects – his 2008 campaign.
Perhaps a tad bit of hyperbole, but it’s backed up with numbers that insinuate that Cole had such a rough go of it last season due to things he couldn’t control, namely BABIP (batting average of balls in play), which basically makes the case that Cole suffered from bad luck and bloop hits more than anything else. His BABIP in 2007 was .282. It dropped to .262 in 2008. In 2009, it ballooned to .321.
The article continues…
If you watched Hamels’s last three or four starts, Friday’s jaunt against Colorado included to an extent, you probably noticed how poorly-hit balls often made Cole the victim. Well, that small sample has, essentially, been a microcosm for all of 2009: lots and lots of end-of-the-bat bloops with an irregular home run thrown in for good measure.
Translation: Cole was paper-cut to death.
Continuing on in this article, we find out that Cole allowed slightly fewer homers per nine innings in 2009 (compared to 2008), and struck out and walked the same number of hitters per nine. In other words, three big statistics that go a long way in determining how good a pitcher is would lead you to believe that Cole was actually better (and at worst, the same) as he was in 2008.
In fact, the only significant jumps for Hamels was the number of hits he allowed per nine (7.6 to 9.6) and the increase in BABIP (.262 to .321). Keep reading, and you’ll see that the defense behind Hamels was worse in 2009, although he allowed fewer line drives, while inducing more ground balls and infield fly balls, which leads us to the conclusion of the article…
Combine all of this, and you’d figure that Hamels’s ERA should have been closer to his 2008 figure of 3.09, and you’d be right. His xFIP for 2009 was 3.75: exactly 0.03 points lower than his xFIP for 2008. That stat, xFIP, is what a pitcher’s ERA “should” be, given his peripheral stats and normalizing his home runs allowed.
In layman’s logic, based on Cole’s peripheral stats, his 2009 season should have been better 2008. Think about that.
So what does this mean? Meh, who knows. The stat heads will say that Cole was the victim of bad luck, while the old school types will say that Cole is a victim of himself and some bad baseballin’.
Personally, I think it was a combination of both. It’s no question that Cole was often on the receiving end of some weak singles and rally-extending bloops (much to the delight of Mr. Chip Carey), and there is no doubt that his heavy work load in 2008 took a toll on him. Combine that with an admittedly poor training program before the 2009 season, plus a few early injuries, and you have the ingredients for a perfect storm of mediocrity.
Whatever the case may be, there is no reason that Cole Hamels can’t go toe-to-toe with Roy Halladay in 2010. While Roy’s career stats speak volumes about the type of pitcher that he is, consider that Cole is still a youngster. Really. 2010 will be only his fifth big league season, and only the fourth that he is on the roster come opening day.
What I’m trying to say is this: Don’t count out Cole before the season starts. While everyone is gaga over Cliff Lee and his departure to The Emerald City, let’s not forget that we have our own left-handed Ace right under our noses.
- 700 Level
- Crashburn Alley
- High Cheese
- House That Glanville Built
- Philadelphia Will Do
- Philled In
- Philly Gameday
- Philly Gossip
- Phoul Ballz
- The Good Phight
- The Insider
- The Zo Zone
- Where's Weems?
- Who Does He Play For?
- Zoo With Roy