Lightning Rod Lefty Cole Hamels

Cole Hamels will be a lightning rod figure between two camps this year. Sure, there is the whole Mets-Phillies thing, with Hamels implying the Mets were chokers, but I was thinking of a rivalry of a different sort. In the scouts versus stats conflict, Hamels should be a test case for the validity of each side.

From the traditional point of view, Hamels put up his second straight outstanding season. He finished 2008 with 14 wins and set career highs in ERA (3.09), strikeouts (196) and WHIP (1.082). Last year Hamels was the seventh-best fantasy starter. He earned an $18.89 dollar value according to the RotoTimes Player Rater. And if that wasn’t enough, Hamels thrived in the post-season, going 4-0 with a 1.60 ERA for the World Champions.

But things do not look so rosy for Hamels in another context. His K/9 dropped for a second straight season and checked in at 7.76 last year. Hamels’ FIP was 63 points higher than his ERA, the 16th-highest mark in the category. He also had a .270 BABIP despite allowing a career-high 21.8 percent LD%. Hamels placed 13th in Baseball Prospectus’ Pitcher Abuse Points list, with only two hurlers ahead of him, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, younger than the Phillies’ lefthander.

And the 25-year-old Hamels also is one of the pitchers susceptible to the “Verducci Effect” in that he increased his workload by 44 innings from the year before.

So far, mock drafters have sided with the traditionalists, as Hamels has an ADP of 41 and is the fourth SP off the board.

Hamels will have to improve on last year’s outstanding season to be worth a fourth-round pick. And there are enough warning signs around him to make passing on him in that slot an easy choice. Jake Peavy, Brandon Webb and Roy Halladay are all being picked behind Hamels in the fourth, with Dan Haren available a round later.

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That 44 IP increase is actually more like 70 once you count the postseason, though he was a bit more efficient in pitchers/inning than the previous year.

The Phillies fielding was very good last year and should be good again this year, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see his BABIP to be a little on the low side and his FIP to beat his ERA by a bit, though not by as much as last year.

I think he’s probably due to drop off a bit.