Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Not Your Average Lump of Cole

It took 5 months, but Cole Hamels may have finally located the altitude known commonly as "knee-high."

Make no mistake, the reigning World Series MVP is having an off year. Hamels is just 8-8 with an ERA of 4.26, and that's after a recent hot stretch. For the bulk of 2009, Cole's ERA has been much closer to 4.80, and more than the poor numbers, he's just looked out of sorts.

Sure, there was a good start here and there. Hamels pitched a complete game shutout at Chavez Ravine at the start of June, though those may have been 9 residual shutout innings from last season's NLCS. Two months later, in his final start of July, Hamels tossed 8 innings of 1-run ball in Arizona against the Diamondbacks. In the start immediately following each of these, though, Hamels gave up at least 10 hits to his opponent, and exited starts against the Mets and the Giants looking confused and upset.

But something about these last 2 starts looks different. First, it's worth noting that Hamels is working on back-to-back starts in which he has held the opponent scoreless over a combined 17 innings. These are also just the 4th and 5th times all year that Hamels has gone 8 innings or more, so he's been efficient, too.

Naysayers might point out that the two dominant performances came against the likes of the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants, and those naysayers come armed with a darn good point.

But let's turn the clock back to August 2nd, Hamels' previous start against the Giants. In that contest, Hamels went just 5 innings, surrendering 6 earned runs in spacious AT&T Park. Admittedly, the Giants are a much better team at home, but an ERA discrepancy of almost 11 runs would be a bit much to attribute to home field. How about Cole's previous effort against the Buckos? Equally unimpressive, to the tune of 5 runs in 6 innings.

Hamels has been a great fade this year due to his name and the absurdly inflated lines the Phils have received as a result of his turn in the rotation, but from here on out, fade AT YOUR PERIL. That's not to say the right situation won't present itself, when Hamels is pitching against, say, Baltimore or Toronto, some AL teams he hasn't scouted and that have hit him relatively hard in Interleague play, but for the rest of 2009, and certainly while he's riding this wave of confidence in September, Hamels is a solid play and a very, very risky fade.

Oh, and his next opponent, Houston, has been awful this half, and Hamels is 3-0 against them in his career.

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