Cole Hamels Is Phillies’ Best Starter

Surprising headline, indeed. And, yes, it is true: Cole Hamels has been the Phillies’ best starter thus far. While Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee have received the lion’s share of media attention, Hamels has quietly become one of the best pitchers in baseball. In fact, an argument could be made that he has been the best in baseball thus far this season.

After a relatively mediocre performance from Roy Halladay yesterday against the Washington Nationals, the reigning National League Cy Young award winner relinquished his Major League-leading 2.60 SIERA. He was bumped slightly back to 2.66. Hamels, just a shade behind at 2.62, moves into first place.

Hamels isn’t better than every Phillies starter in any particular category. Cliff Lee strikes out more batters, Halladay issues fewer walks and induces more ground balls, while Roy Oswalt allows fewer home runs. However, Hamels is well above-average in every category that best explains and predicts a pitcher’s success and failure.

Of course, Hamels has only been technically the best starter going by SIERA. There is still a lot of variance that reduces our certainty in the data. Additionally, Halladay and Lee have both been a bit BABIP-unlucky, so there is room for them to be even better going forward. At any rate, it is quite nice that the Phillies have the three best starting pitchers in baseball.

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  1. leroyquimby

    May 31, 2011 08:58 AM

    So Cole is our ace after all!

  2. JB

    May 31, 2011 09:28 AM

    But ESPN told me that Cole Hamels wasn’t even an ace…

  3. Nik

    May 31, 2011 09:31 AM

    Its great that’s he’s pitching so well, but part of me wishes that he’d wait a little until he signs an extension 🙂

  4. Moose

    May 31, 2011 09:34 AM

    I love how everyone wanted to trade him after 09. morons. I feel like FanSince09 needs to make an appearance…


    May 31, 2011 09:51 AM

    Eric Karabell from ESPN is a Phillies homer, and he STILL didn’t consider Cole an Ace…but I think he was wrong on that one, and he’s looking like a fool for it right now.

    Best pitcher in Baseball? I am not quite ready to say that about Cole, but I think he’s probably been one of the Top 3 pitchers so far this year, and certainly has pitched like my definition of what an Ace is supposed to be.

  6. El Bastardo

    May 31, 2011 09:52 AM

    Cool Hummels is baseball

  7. Css228

    May 31, 2011 10:06 AM

    What is with all those broken bat bloopers that have been falling in on Doc? It’s getting kinda ridiculous at this point. Weak contact should not lead to as many hits as it has. That said, Hamels is clearly the guy I want on the mound the most after Doc. He’s fun to watch, and more importantly, borderline unhittable right now.

  8. Mr250

    May 31, 2011 10:37 AM

    I have to be skeptical of this “SIERA” metric. Jair Jurrjens of the Braves, for example, has a 1.51 ERA and is 7-1 on the season, but is buried deep in the SIERA standings below a heap of mediocre starters.

    If he maintains his winning percentage and ERA late into the season, I’m going to have to seriously question this metric.

  9. Frank K

    May 31, 2011 10:43 AM

    Hope the Phillies can sign Hamels going forward. If they don’t, they better prepare to see him often in the wrong uniform as I’d bet he prefers to stay in the NL so he can bat a hundred times a year. They should lock him up forever; they have the money to do it.

  10. Fatalotti

    May 31, 2011 10:49 AM

    Mr250, Jurrjesn is a good pitcher. But this year, he’s striking out a mere 5.21 batters per nine innings, and he’s not an extreme groundball pitcher, as he’s only inducing GBs at a rate of 47% on the season. He doesn’t walk many batters, so he should be a good pitcher going forward, but his BAbip of .262 compared to his career rate of .281 and the league average of .295-.300 suggests some regression there. But the big key to his low ERA is this: his LOB% (percentage of runners left on base) is a ridiculous is 87.8%, which is simply unsustainable. His career rate if 74.7%, which is right around league average. This is not really a skill, as most pitcher, whether elite of pitiful, float around this rate.

    These runners will start coming home from the bases going forward, and his ERA will rise as a result. He’s still a great pitcher, but he is not a top 10 pitcher, and has been the recipient of some very good fortune early on, keep his ERA so low.

  11. Ken

    May 31, 2011 10:49 AM

    I think it might be more appropriate to say Cole is having the best year of the starters.
    This just might be the year there’s a passing of the torch within the club, but I think Doc needs to weaken more if Cole is going to capture that much “title.”

    It figures to get interesting to see how the rotation lines up for the playoffs, add whatever tag you want to avoid presumption.

    Whichever is the proper way to phrase it, the pre season progs that picked Cole to win the CY should be feeling pretty good to this point. But as hard as it will be to separate from Doc and, Lincecum and the likes, this Johnny Venters, who is almost singlehandedly keeping the Braves in contention is gonna be a force to be reckoned with. Batters are 0-6 off him with the bases loaded, amongst other ridiculous numbers like about a.107 batting average yielded to lefties. But that 0-6 with the bases loaded stat is maybe a fair way to guage a Doc/Cole discussion. Which if the 2 would you think would be more likely to match that Venters mark. I’m still not ready to vote against Doc.

  12. Roy H

    May 31, 2011 10:52 AM

    Cole Hamels for now is the best Phillies’ starter I do think and one of the best in baseball. In probably a year or 2 the whole Phillies rotation will be dominating, hopefully!! Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels are very amazing pitchers and will all eventually smoothen out their rotation with all cylinders working. This includes giving up fewer walks, fewer home runs, and more strikeouts is what I’m believing will happen to this rotation including the 5th starter. GO PHILLIES!

  13. Fatalotti

    May 31, 2011 10:58 AM

    Also, Jurrjens has a HR/FB% of 4.5%. League average is around 10%, and his career average is around 8%. This will increase as the year progresses.

  14. Adam

    May 31, 2011 10:59 AM

    I like Hamels, but it’s worth noting Halladay is averaging almost 1 more inning per start.

  15. CP

    May 31, 2011 11:16 AM

    Cole has been awesome, but Halladay is still the best. Adam’s comment is worth noting, and also a reason why Doc leads not only all pitchers, but all NL players in WAR. In fact, the only player who has accumulated more WAR to this point in the season is Jose Bautista.

  16. hk

    May 31, 2011 11:19 AM


    Just wondering, did you like when Cole was MVP of the 2008 World Series?

  17. CP

    May 31, 2011 11:20 AM


    Why am I seeing Halladay’s HR/FB at 6.6% and you have it at 10%? I believe it was closer to 3% prior to yesterday’s aberration.

  18. Bill Baer

    May 31, 2011 11:27 AM

    @ CP

    Probably just a transcription error on my part. Oops!

    I personally do not advocate using WAR for pitchers. There’s a lot of crossed wires (e.g. Baseball Reference uses actual results while FanGraphs uses xFIP) and too much variance for my liking.

  19. Jonny

    May 31, 2011 11:53 AM

    There it is….. Hamels will want to be PAID.


    May 31, 2011 12:10 PM

    Hamels WILL want to be paid, I just hope it’s the Phillies who will be doing the paying. They are hopefully working on something as I speak, because he’s only going to cost more if he get’s an All-Star selection, and is in the Top-3 for NL Cy by years end etc.

    Cole is the Phillies only Ace Quality pitcher who’s below 30 right now, so I think it’s absolutely essential that they lock him up ASAP. An extension for bth Jimmy and Mad-Dog should be near the top of their priorities as well.

  21. Jonny

    May 31, 2011 12:31 PM

    Well Coal, let’s both hope. I don’t think the Phills are ready to pay that royalties tax, but they’ll need to if they’re going to sign Madson, Cole, and Jimmy.

  22. bill

    June 01, 2011 04:00 PM

    Hamels is pitching great, but I don’t really love SIERA as a measurement of “best.”

    Halladay also has 91.1 IP to Hamels 74.2 (granted with one more start, likely it’ll be something like 10 more IP after tomorrow).

  23. ryter

    June 01, 2011 04:46 PM

    Don’t you love it when a guy goes out and keeps his mouth shut and performs and then you pick up the paper and there he is leading the pack. Way 2 go Cole

  24. DC Drives

    September 22, 2011 02:23 AM

    Hey very nice blog!I’m an instant fan, I have bookmarked you and I’ll be checking back on a regular.See u.

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