Here’s something scary: Cole Hamels has finished seven innings in just two of his starts this season. That’s two of 12. Take out the early exits because of injury and you’re still at 20 percent.
That’s unacceptable for a man who’s supposed to give you seven almost every time out. It’s unacceptable for a supposed ace. As a referral note, after 12 starts last season, Hamels saw seven innings nine times.
Is there a problem?
I thought as if Hamels wasn’t getting the swings and misses he used to get. And it’s true, he’s not quite getting the swings he desires. Hitters are swinging at his outside-the-zone offerings just 26 percent of the time, compared to 30 percent the last two seasons. And they’re making more contact outside the zone than ever — 62 percent of the time, compared to 60 percent last season and just 52 percent in 2007. To be short, Hamels is throwing many more hittable pitches outside the strike zone.
There might be a reason for that, too — the fastball has lost some velocity since 2007 (about 92 mph to 90 mph); with that, the changeup has lost about the same amount of velocity (from 82 to 79), and the curveball, too (from 78 to 74). When you lose velocity, your pitches will become easier to hit. And with that, his batting average of balls in play has risen dramatically from .270 to .348 from 2008 to ’09.
Is it luck? Somewhat. But it also shows that the fire Hamels once slung with ease has tempered a bit. Is he capable of big outs? Absolutely. That was seen last night in the sixth inning — three struck balls that tangled in Jimmy Rollins’ glove. Yes he was hit, but the hits were consistent to the defender’s range. Hamels still got out of the jam, making big pitches en route to a pop out, a strike out and a fly out.
Hamels should be okay, but we’ll hold our breaths just a little until he starts dominating for seven and more innings with regularity.