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.


Leave a Reply



  1. Richard

    August 14, 2012 07:56 AM

    Oddly, I think Hamels has a somewhat better chance than it might appear, but of course contingent on him pitching more like he has lately than he did during the period just prior. Because Zimmermann is also likely not to pitch enough innings, and is, so far, deficient in wins. The main competition, it seems to me, is Dickey–who has the benefit of being a) a novelty and b) a feel-good story, while also being pretty awesome this year–Cueto, and possibly a guy like Cain. It would be a stretch, to be sure, but not outside the realm of possibility. My bet is on Dickey, though, unless he tanks.

  2. Francisco

    August 14, 2012 08:02 AM

    I guess Felix must have had 13 really impressive wins when he won the Cy Young award. Pitcher wins are less important than you paint them to be, the times are changing.

  3. Malcolm

    August 14, 2012 09:59 AM

    Just going by historical trend, I think this is Cueto’s to lose. If things remain static, I could see the voting end up:

    1. Cueto
    2. Dickey
    3. Strasburg
    4. Hamels
    5. Cain

    Though one might understand seeing Gonzalez and/or Zimmermann fall into the top-5. Kershaw could hang out there, too. Very open NL this year.

  4. Richard

    August 14, 2012 10:22 AM

    Felix Hernandez was the dominant narrative, though, Francisco. AND, probably enabling that anti-wins narrative to take hold, he led the league in innings pitched and ERA, and was second in strikeouts. Those stats have long appealed to voters, wins or no wins.

    I suspect we’re past the time when someone with a bunch of wins will win the award just because (a la Steve Stone or Bob Welch, or Bartolo Colon), but the constellation of other basic stats are still in the forefront.

    Cueto looks good right now because he has the wins AND the ERA, even if his saber-numbers aren’t awesome. Zimmermann has the ERA and saber-numbers, but not enough innings or wins. Dickey has wins AND strikeouts, and is close in innings, and pretty close in ERA. So just looking at those stats, combined with his feel-good narrative, and it’s his to lose. Probably. Maybe.

  5. NickFromGermantown

    August 14, 2012 10:26 AM

    Is it just me or is it asinine having Hamels go the distance when the team is effectively out of contention if for no other reason than we have a very young bullpen that needs to develop?

  6. Richard

    August 14, 2012 10:31 AM

    It’s probably not just you, but I don’t think it’s asinine. Those guys are getting plenty of work. They need rest, too.

  7. notstrasburg

    August 14, 2012 10:37 AM

    Hammels coasted last night – not a tough inning. With the low pitch count, he wasn’t coming out (and shouldn’t have come out) absent some real trouble in the 9th.

  8. mainlinemac

    August 14, 2012 12:21 PM

    I’m just amazed that Jordan Zimmermann is putting up a 2.35 ERA and a respectable 4.4 WAR after his last three years of being a pretty good middle-of-the-rotation guy. Though he admittedly did improve stat-wise last year, posting a 2.8 WAR despite the Nationals doing nothing at the time to help his case. He posted an 8-11 record with a 3.18 ERA in 2011, which is what jumps out to most people upon review.

    Perhaps his skill is finally being mirrored by the team behind him?

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