Looking at Cole’s Cy Chances

Cole Hamels turned in another gem last night against the Miami Marlins, going the distance for his second consecutive complete game shut-out and running his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 22. (37 innings shy of Orel Hershiser’s record, for those keeping score at home.) The lefty brought his ERA down to 2.91, the lowest it has been since the beginning of June, and posted a season-high in strike efficiency, throwing 85 of them in 113 pitches. It was vintage Hamels, the type of pitching the Phillies hope to get over a majority of the six-year, $144 million contract they agreed to three weeks ago. They also hope he will bring home at least one NL Cy Young award, and this year may be his best shot.

With his great start last night, Hamels moved into eighth place in ERA and a tie for fifth in wins (13), the two stats that most voters (mistakenly) consider most. Unless Hamels continues his stellar pitching through the end of the season, it is unlikely he will pass Jordan Zimmermann (2.35) or Jonny Cueto (2.45), among others, in ERA, nor Cueto, Gio Gonzalez, and R.A. Dickey in wins (each 15). There is also the unfortunate fact that Hamels throws baseballs for a team completely out of playoff contention, unlike many of the pitchers ahead of him on the leaderboard. Based on traditional stats, Hamels doesn’t have much of a case this side of an historically-great final eight starts.

The Sabermetric case isn’t any easier. Hamels’ 3.31 xFIP ranks eighth in the league and his 3.31 SIERA ranks seventh. However, we can boot a few players from the lists:

  • Stephen Strasburg (2.78 xFIP, 2.72 SIERA): The Nationals will be limiting his remaining innings and don’t plan to use him in the post-season. An argument could still be made for the 24-year-old right-hander, but the lack of innings will be a strong deterrent.
  • Zack Greinke (2.81, 2.94): Now in the American League with the L.A. Angels.
  • Adam Wainwright (3.06, 3.16): 3.90 ERA invalidates him from the discussion among most voters.
  • Cliff Lee (3.21, 3.21): 3.85 ERA also invalidates him like Wainwright.

After paring the list down, Hamels’ biggest contenders in xFIP and SIERA are:

  • R.A. Dickey: 3.07 xFIP, 2.98 SIERA
  • Gio Gonzalez: 3.20, 3.37
  • Madison Bumgarner: 3.25, 3.21

Going by Wins Above Replacement from Baseball Reference (rWAR), Hamels (3.7) is fourth behind Cueto (5.3), Zimmermann (4.4), and Dickey (3.9). There isn’t a strong Sabermetric case for Hamels, either.

Hamels has had a great season, but his chances of winning the Cy Young after the season are looking slim. He may get some top-five votes, but that’s it, continuing a career that may put him in the “best pitchers never to win a Cy Young” discussions when all is said and done.