May 16th 2013 17:43
Before we get into dissecting what is wrong with Cole Hamels, let's start with a little Phillies stat trivia here...take a look at these two season statistic lines below:
W-L ERA IP H R ER BB K
4-1 2.47 54 2/3 48 15 15 10 39
1-6 4.61 56 2/3 49 29 29 24 47
Now, which one belongs to Hamels and his $144 million contract, and which belongs to the fan's favorite whipping boy Kyle Kendrick, and his $4.5 million 2013 salary?
Yes, the top stat line is that of #4 starter Kendrick, and the bottom line belongs to the newly-minted staff ace Hamels.
Quick show of hands: how many of you predicted this would be how the first month-and-a-half would play out when pitchers and catchers reported to Clearwater in February?
Not many of you, I'm sure, but the reality is that after getting knocked around by the Indians in a 10-4 loss to wrap up their two-game set with the Tribe at Citizens Bank Park, Hamels finds himself five games under .500 in the win-loss ledger, and still struggling to get his 2013 campaign on track.
In addition to leading the National League in walks allowed with 24, the Phils' stylish lefty has also served up nine long balls in his 56 2/3 innings of work, although three of them came in his first outing on Opening Day in Atlanta.
For a guy who is entering his prime and was inked to the lengthy and pricey contract extension last year, to say that his start to the season has been a disappointment is an understatement.
As the legendary former NFL coach Bill Parcells once said, "You are what your record says you are", and in Hamels's case, that makes him a very sub-standard starting pitcher.
However, Parcells's quote, while snappy and for the most part applicable to most sports, can't truly be applied to a pitcher's wins and losses, mostly because they don't always have a lot of control over whether or not they factor into the decision or not. Starters are often taken out of the game in the 7th inning or later in favor of a fresh arm out of the bullpen, a rain delay could end a starter's night way too early, or the offense and/or defense could not do their part in putting up runs or making the plays behind him.
Case in point: while Hamels has certainly not been himself this season, after a pair of rough outings to start the season he went out and put up six straight quality starts (at least six innings, allowing three runs or less) while posting a 2.41 ERA over that span.
His record in those six starts? 1-3, with a pair of no-decisions.
So despite giving his team a good opportunity to win each of those starts, the offense failed to hold up their end of the bargain - to the tune of a total of 10 runs scored - and wasted five quality outings in the process.
Of course, a lack of run support is nothing new for Hamels or fellow lefty Cliff Lee. Remember, this is the same guy who lost 1-0 TWICE to the Mets in six days in 2010!
Back in 2011, when Hamels went 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA, the Phils' offense staked him to 3.9 runs per game, which figured to cost him at least five more wins along the way.
Last season, Lee famously won his first game after July 1st, despite putting up a slew of quality starts, including the infamous 10-inning shutout in San Francisco that wound up being an 11-inning loss for the Phils, and yet another no-decision for Lee.
Lee's 6-9 mark was greatly impacted by the 3.5 runs per game behind him, as his 3.16 ERA and 207 K's in 211 innings and astounding 7.39:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio are more of an accurate indicator of the way he pitched.
So while Hamels has not been the Hamels we have grown accustomed to seeing take the mound every fifth day for Charlie Manuel, some simple math shows that the hitters have scored a measly 2.9 runs behind him, and when a pitcher facing Major League hitters takes the mound knowing he's got to be somewhere close to perfect to have a chance of winning, it has to take a toll on him mentally and cause some level of pressing, which could point to the inflated walk total.
To his credit, Hamels has said all of the right things and shoulders the blame for his dismal start. And, more importantly, he told the media after yesterday's game that he feels "strong and healthy", suggesting that his struggles might be more of a mechanical issue, or indeed a result of trying to be too fine and not trusting his stuff.
That Hamels has been a disappointment thus far falls in line with the overall disappointing slow start by the team, and at the very least it looks like Hamels could be a lot closer to righting his ship than the inconsistent and undisciplined offense, which is in desperate need of someone (anyone!) to get hot for an extended stretch of games.
Regardless, someone has to turn something around for this team - and soon!