The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #8. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff.
From this point forward, each weekday, we will reveal two Phillies from the PN Top 100 in separate posts. To view the players listed thus far, please click here. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.
Please check back this afternoon for #7.
#8 – Cole Hamels
99-74, 3.38 ERA, 1.141 WHIP in 1596.2 IP
Previous Rank: 40 (+32)
fWAR Phillies Rank: 8th among pitchers, 21st among Phillies
Signature Season: Posted a 1.80 ERA in 35 IP in the 2008 postseason en route to winning the 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP Awards after leading the NL in WHIP with a 14-10 record and 3.09 ERA.
Three-time All-Star (2007, 2011-2012)
When Philadelphia took a scrawny 6’3″, 18-year old lefty prep pitcher from San Diego with the 17th pick in the 2002 draft, they were taking a considerable risk. The player the Phillies were selecting, Cole Hamels, had broken his humerus bone in his left arm as a sophomore in high school and there was seemingly a few safer picks with considerable talent left on the board, namely the University of Kentucky’s Joe Blanton and Stanford’s Jeremy Guthrie. Yet, the Phillies had Hamels, who had been clocked at 94 MPH in high school, fall into their lap after San Diego, who was believed to have interest in Hamels, selected shortstop with Khalil Greene at pick 13 instead. As we know from Moneyball, this was one of the many moves that allowed the A’s to snag Nick Swisher with the 16th pick and, sub-sequentially, the Phillies Hamels at 17.
I would say the move worked out pretty well for them.
But things weren’t always rosy: Hamels would impress in 2003 for Lakewood and Clearwater but be limited to just four games in the minors in 2004 and eight in 2005, tanking his 2004 Baseball America prospect ranking from #17 in 2004 to #71 in 2005 to #68 in 2006. To complicate things, Hamels was involved in a bar fight in 2005 where he would break his pitching hand, raising concerns about both his durability but his make-up. But Hamels was able to put that all behind him, going from Lakewood to Clearwater to Scranton in 2006 before making his big league debut on May 12, 2006, striking out seven in five shutout innings to beat the Reds.
Hamels would spend the rest of 2006 with the Phillies and make his first All-Star team in 2007 while finishing sixth in NL Cy Young voting. In his last 13 starts of 2007, Hamels was a tough man to beat, posting a 6-2 record with a 2.82 ERA, helping the Phillies catch the Mets down the stretch and reach the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Hamels would be the starter for the Phillies’ first playoff home game since Curt Schilling shutout the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 5 of the 1993 World Series. Hamels gave up three runs in 6.2 IP while striking out seven, losing Game 1. The Phillies would get swept by the Rockies but the season ended with the feeling that this wasn’t the last time you would see the Phillies, or Hamels, in the playoffs.
Hamels would lead the NL in WHIP in 2008 and entered the playoffs with unfinished business on his mind. Hamels would throw eight shutout innings against a potent Milwaukee Brewers’ line-up in Game 1 of the NLDS to give the Phillies a 1-0 series lead. Hamels would get the ball for Game 1 of the NLCS and out-duel Derek Lowe, pitching seven innings, giving up only two earned while striking out eight. Hamels got the ball next with a chance to clinch the NL pennant in Los Angeles. This time facing Chad Billingsley, Hamels threw seven innings, surrendering only one earned, and striking out five on his way to winning his second decision of the NLCS and earning NLCS MVP honors.
In what was becoming a trend, Hamels took the ball in Game 1 of the World Series against the Rays at Tropicana Field. The Phillies struck first on a two-run Chase Utley homer and later on a Carlos Ruiz ground-out. The three runs were all Hamels needed to pick up his fourth winning decision of the playoffs as Hamels threw seven strong innings, surrendering just two earned, striking out five. Hamels made his last start of the 2008 postseason under the bright lights of Citizens Bank Park with a 3-1 series lead in the favor of the Phillies and a chance to close out the World Series in the Phillies’ house. Armed with a two-run lead after a first-inning Shane Victorino two-out single, Hamels would strike out three in six innings as the rain started to pour down. With the Rays down one run in the sixth, Hamels began to lose his stellar command as the rain poured down harder and Hamels would surrender his second run of the night before the game was paused once the third out in the first half of the sixth inning was made. After some clutch hitting by Geoff Jenkins, a lucky flare by Jayson Werth, even clutch-er hitting by Pat Burrell and Pedro Feliz, and a Brad Lidge strikeout, the Phillies could breath easy as champions and Hamels was awarded the Series MVP trophy.
What Hamels did in 2008 would be enough for most organizations’ Top 50 or even Top 25 lists. Since then, however, Hamels has proved he is one of the best Phillies in club history. In the same number of starts, Hamels has more postseason wins than Steve Carlton, ranks eighth in club history in wins, just sixteen shy of number six, Curt Simmons, and is just 19 starts behind Simmons for the fifth-most starts in club history. Hamels trails only Cliff Lee in K/9 IP in team history while ranking tenth in WHIP. Hamels currently ranks fifth in strikeouts in Phillies’ history with a very good chance to catch third-ranked Chris Short, who sits just 76 away entering the 2014 season. By the end of the 2014, with some run support and good health, Hamels will find himself in the top five in club history in many pitching categories. Not bad.
And make no mistake: Hamels’ excellence extends beyond his place in franchise history. From 2006 through 2013, Hamels ranks second in the NL in wins, third in games started and innings pitched, 19th in ERA, and first in strikeouts.
At just 30 years old for the 2014 season, Hamels is already in elite company in Phillies’ franchise history, something that few expected when the thin 6’3″ kid with frosted tips and a surfer’s cadance from San Diego was drafted in 2002. Hamels went from skinny kid with arm problems and questions about his temperament to a franchise-changing pitcher and community role model: Hamels has not only become a fantastic pitcher but a major philanthropist, creating the Hamels Foundation with his wife Heidi, aiming to “ to support low-income inner-city school systems in the United States through their grant programs, which provide for construction, educational supplies, and provisions as well as scholarship opportunities for continuing education of students.” Both Cole and Heidi are actively engaged in the Philadelphia community and Hamels’ work within the community is as, if not more, impressive than his work on the field. And he’s been really, really good on the field.