We continue our 2011 Player Review series with Cole Hamels.
It’s almost as easy as talking about Santa Claus throwing snow balls at an Eagles game 40-some-odd years ago. There’s always that point to go back to that allows writers a point of entry for a particular story. It used to be the 2009 season with Cole Hamels. But two years later we can honestly say that season was a deviation from the norm.
With yet another excellent showing in 2011, Cole Hamels has established himself as not only an elite left-handed pitcher (perhaps the best of the best), but one of the best overall. Last week, he finished fifth in the National League Cy Young Award voting behind Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Ian Kennedy.
A quick glance at his numbers show you consistency throughout. Only twice did Hamels allow more than four earned runs in game, one of them coming in his first start of the season against the New York Mets. Eleven times he went at least seven innings without giving up more than one run.
Hamels’ fine first half sent him to Phoenix for the 2011 All-Star Game, where he joined Halladay, Lee, Placido Polanco, and Shane Victorino.
His name appears high on the NL statistical leaderboard in many different categories. Hamels finished 6th in ERA (2.79), 2nd in WHIP (0.99), 10th in strikeouts (194), and 9th in innings pitched (216). He also ranked 5th in K/BB ratio (4.41), 2nd in opponents batting average (.214), and third in opponents OPS (.596). Hamels’ only true blemish is his home run total of 19. That ranked 24th in the National League.
And long gone are the days where we can no longer trust Hamels in a big situation. The uneasy feeling that 2009 left behind has dissipated. We now look to Cole to take the ball on the road in the playoffs and come up large. He did just that in Game 3 of the NLDS against St. Louis in October.
Needing to be close to perfect to give the Phillies faltering offense a chance, Hamels tossed six shutout innings en route to his seventh postseason victory in 13 starts. Obviously, it was all for naught as St. Louis would come back from a 2-1 series deficit to win; but that was no fault of Hamels.
How did Hamels get here? By changing. He changed his work habits; he’s in the best shape of his life, bulking up and adding strength as a way to deal with the everyday rigors of the game. Basically, Hamels is prepared to be great every fifth day; something you can count on from Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, as well.
That work ethic has led to improved velocity on his fastball, and to the addition of a sturdy cutter he’s implemented over the past few years. Since he broke into the league, Hamels has added a mile-per-hour on his fastball, but now has the ability to get it to 94-95 if need be.
Now, we look to future. What does it hold for Hamels? If he gets his way, it’ll include him in red pinstripes for a long, long time. A few pundits have argued that with the Phillies inflated payroll, Hamels might be the sacrificed lamb. A trade would bring in quality young talent at cheap price. Worry not, Phillies fans. Cole Hamels is not going anywhere. He loves this town too much. And the town loves him back.
Grade: 9/10 – A brief injury gave us a scare, but beyond that Hamels was exceptional throughout 2011. We hope for many more quality seasons to come.