Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Obligatory Cole Hamels Post 

I’ve been a pretty good skeptic about this Cole Hamels character. While all of the other bloggers were writing about Hamels with reverence and awe, and anointing him the second-coming of Steve Carlton – (blasphemy!) – I was standing on the sidelines armed with my quiet skepticism. Now that Hamels has put in several starts I think we can sit down and make a few observations about his season thus far.

First of all, I would say that there is a lot to like about Hamels and that he is pitching much, much better than his 5.44 ERA indicates. Check out his stats:

HR/9: 1.01
BB/9: 4.84
K/9: 8.87
ERA: 5.44
FIP: 4.32
DER: .693
WHIP: 1.52

Team averages:
HR/9: 1.19
BB/9: 3.40
K/9: 6.59
ERA: 4.82
FIP: 4.66
DER: .672
WHIP: 1.50

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
WHIP – Walks plus hits by innings pitched: (BB + H) / IP = WHIP
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed).
DER – Defense Efficiency Ratio: (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs.
Hr/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings: (HR * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP

Yes, Cole is pitching better than his ERA indicates. Cole’s FIP ERA makes him probably the Phillies best starter:

Myers: 4.31
Hamels: 4.32
Lidle: 4.41
Lieber: 4.49
Madson: 5.46
Floyd: 7.02
Team: 4.66

Unlike Cole, Myers is under-pitching his “real” ERA by 0.45 … But I do think that Cole is the Phillies strongest starter right now, which isn’t saying much to a certain extent because the Phillies starting pitching is terrible. There is a lot we don’t know about Cole and there is a lot of smoke and mirrors at work with his numbers. Consider: yes, Cole has a very nice and low 1.01 home runs per 9 innings, but bear in mind that 60% of the innings that he’s thrown have been on the road. I am willing to concede that the number of home runs Hamels has surrendered might lower than it looks however: he gave up his five home runs in three of his nine starts. In six starts he didn’t give up any home runs, and two of those starts were against the Reds at Great American Ballpark and against the Yankees. That’s not bad at all and that suggests to me that Cole might be a very difficult pitcher to go deep against, something that the Phillies need very, very much.

Cole gets a lot of strikeouts and that is something that I like to see, especially with the Phillies defense playing as badly as it is. If you can take care of business yourself, so much the better. It is worth noting that the decline in the Phillies defense means that five of the Phillies six starters are actually out-pitching their “real” ERAs. In the case of Jon Lieber, his FIP ERA is nearly a run lower than his real ERA. Cole’s ability to get outs without relying on the defense to make a play, the why Lieber and Lidle do, is a major strength right now.

What is disturbing to me is Cole’s inability to keep cheap base runners off the base paths, namely, his propensity for surrendering walk after walk after walk after walk. Initially, I had wondered if Hamels high walk rate was due to his inexperience in his first two starts, when he gave up nine walks in eleven and two-thirds innings. Since then Cole really hasn’t settled down, giving up fifteen walks in his last thirty-three and one-third innings, 4.05 walks per nine innings. Cole has given up at least two walks in eight of his nine starts.

Cole has a looooong way to go. I’d note that Jon Lieber, Cory Lidle, Brett Myers, Ryan Madson and even Gavin Floyd all have higher Quality Start* percentages than Cole:

Myers: .688
Lidle: .611
Madson: .429
Lieber: .333
Floyd: .273
Hamels: .111
Team: .425

* A Quality Start is a start where the pitcher goes six or more innings and gives up three or fewer runs.

I will say that I think Cole is the Phillies best pitcher, and if the Phils are still fighting for a playoff spot on the last day of the season against the Marlins, I am hoping that Charlie Manuel puts the ball into Cole’s hand. If Cole can work out that walk problem, he’ll be deadly. And maybe those Steve Carlton comparisons will be apt.

In every outing of Cole that I've seen his walk problem has stemmed from locating his curve. I mentioned this on the first game he pitched over at Tom Goyne's BS&S, and Tom pointed out that this is just very common for minor league pitchers when they first come up. If that's the only aspect of his game that he shares with other rookie pitchers, I'm very confident he'll work out the kinks.
the walks will also decrease as he stops being rookie squeezed. i've never seen anything like the way the umps are squeezing cole.

and yes, he needs to locate his curve better. getting the curve over the plate would prevent batters from sitting on his change.

that being said, cole looks really really strong. he has an ability to miss bats, and make professionals looks stupid swiniging (and losing bats!)

he is going to be very, very good.
i agree with O-W. he's got to get that third pitch going. his first two are pretty solid, but don't allow for as much count strategy. floydm on the other hand, had trouble locating all three of his pitches and wouldn't throw the change more than 4 times a game.
Joe - the scary thought is what will happen when he does get that curve working well. His changeup is already a mesmerising thing of beauty - even when guys are waiting on it, he's gutsy enough to throw it at them twice in a row and still get them!

Put it another way - if he *is* a good pitcher he'll resolve that curve problem, and then we'll see just how good he might be.
I'm not terribly worried about his walks and letting guys get on base cheaply. That's young pitcher stuff. It reminds me alot of what Scot Kazmir was doing a year ago, now he's dominating.

The basics are there, the maturity will come.
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