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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18 Responses to “Lightning Rod Lefty Cole Hamels”

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  1. don says:

    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.

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  2. David E says:

    While I’m as into stats as much as the next person, there are some things not quantifiable. Hamels has proven to be a very mentally stable pitcher who is very much in control of himself.

    Now the Pitcher Abuse Points info is a little frightening–especially considering the amount he pitched in the playoffs. I don’t think Hamels is going to pitch as many innings this year. However he hopefully won’t have to, as the Phillies are in a fairly good position with pitching depth. They can rely more on Myers, Blaton, and Moyer in the beginning of the season to ease into the season. Combine that with a solid bullpen and an amazing defense, and I wouldn’t be too concerned with Cole this year.

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    • “Hamels has proven to be a very mentally stable pitcher who is very much in control of himself. ”

      C’mon! This sounds like a bunch of baloney. Maybe this will ensure he never has to see a psychologist in the future, but is this your explanation for his low BABIP? Pitchers who are mentally stable and in control of themselves have lower BABIPs than those who aren’t?

      No concern over the 2nd straight year of K/9 decline?

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        The Phillies had the best defense in the majors by UZR. That would explain the BABIP.

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      • David E says:

        My point with mental stability is that he isn’t going to have mental hiccups on the mound, say unlike Brett Myers. It was hardly my central argument, though.

        His K/9 decline doesn’t bother me as along as it doesn’t continue to decline. I think the lower K/9 average has more to do with a change in pitching style rather than a decline in skill or wear and tear. In my opinion he will probably be somewhere between 8-8.5 per 9 this season. Anyway, his K/9 rate last year was still very solid.

        His low BABIP is most likely a combination of Cole’s skill, the Phillies’ defense, and luck. Its likely that his BABIP will rise, but how much is to be expected. The Phillies team BABIP was .299 last year, its harder to attribute luck to a whole pitching staff. Now Cole is by far the best SP on the Phils, so it should be expected that he has a lower than average BABIP.

        A BABIP in the low to mid .280′s is most likely. His average against last year was .231 and his walk rate remained a constant 2.1 from the year before. His K/9 will be at worst 7.6-8. My only real concern is the potential for injury.

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      • Conballs says:

        Along with mental stability, Hamels might have one of the most fluid and effortless pitching motions I have seen among the top-pitchers in the league. I agree that his pitching style is not centered around striking people out, unless he needs to. That’s why his pitches per inning are so low. He uses his defense. Even if you see a slight increase in his ERA and his K rate maintained, I can see him adding 3 or 4 more wins – keeping his fantasy value on par. The guy got jipped out of AT LEAST that many wins last year. I know that’s part of the game, and it wasn’t quite as bad as Santana, but the Phils bats actually underperformed last year IMO.

        As far as injury, I wouldn’t be more concerned than any other pitcher. Along with his great mechanics, he takes care of his body unlike anybody. He has six-hour workouts, does yoga, gets acupuncture, etc. Because of his wife, all he seems to care about is his health. I say he throws 240 IP again with 17 wins.

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      • don says:

        The Phils bats underperformed for Hamels last year. They were fine for everyone else.

        I mean… just look at this.

        Cole Hamels: 227 IP in 33 starts, 3.09 ERA, 14-10
        Kyle Kendrick: 155 IP in 30 starts, 5.49 ERA, 11-9

        That’s pretty ridiculous. Other than that, I think their bats were fine. Howard might have had a down year or might not be as good as we thought, and Rollins was a bit down. Utley was where you expect him and all the outfielders did well. Feliz and Ruiz hit relatively poorly but that’s what they were expected to do.

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  3. Jim says:

    He has significantly outperformed his FIP 2 years in a row….is that still luck?

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  4. Brian Joura says:

    I may be paraphrasing, but the old standby is:

    Anything can happen once
    Twice may be a coincidence
    Three times is a trend

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  5. WeinerMan says:

    He also swears by his chiropractor, who the team hired last year.

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  6. MattS says:

    I am clearly a bit late on this, but I have some insight.

    –BABIP is somewhat repeatable skill for pitchers after all. Recent research has shown this to be true– it’s not that it’s totally without repeatability. Hamels’ low BABIP seems intentional and repeatable. He gets ahead in the count (recall the Brian Bannister explanation) and hitters shorten their swings and he induces groundballs late in the count, intentionally trading strikeouts for efficiency and throwing fewer pitchers per inning.

    –FIP always underestimates good pitchers and overestimates bad pitchers. It does not have the variance of a stat like QERA because it does not account for the interaction between low walk rates, high strikeout rates, and medium homerun rates (like Hamels) who gives up almost exclusively solo shots because he never puts runners on base. Hamels’ QERA last year was 3.45, much closer.

    –As mentioned above, the Phillies’ team defense is very good and Hamels is as well. He is lefty and gives up many groundballs to the left side where Rollins and Feliz gobble them up.

    –Hamels BABIP is also low because CBP is small, especially in LF and he is a LHP. Many flyballs find their way out in LF when they would otherwise be 2B which would give him a higher BABIP and lower FIP.

    –Line drive rate is almost entirely uncorrelated with the following years’ BABIP for pitchers.

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  7. thephaithful says:

    For those concerned about the declining K/9 rate: It was a well advertised fact that Hamels and the coaching staff were focusing on lowering his pitch count so he could go deeper into games. To do that, they advised Hamels to cut down on the reliance of strikeouts, and more on baiting hitters to turnover on his changeup. The results speak for themselves. And his +7 K/9 ratio is plenty good as is.

    As previously mentioned in this thread, his 14 Wins are about the only stat where I would expect a big increase. He had 3 starts last year where he gave up 0 runs and did not get the W.

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  8. Mike says:

    In using systems like BP’s Pitcher Abuse Points, along with the “Verducci effect”…..I wonder if there is any correlation between these injuries vs type of “out” pitch used. Hamel’s changeup is much less suggestive to injury than say Liriano’s suicidal (for his elbow anyway) slider.

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