Shouldering the Load

If you’re like me, seeing that tweet pop on your timeline last week was like sending a bolt of lightning through your chest. “Shoulder issue” and “Hamels” appearing in the same sentence is almost as frightening as the Three Scariest Words; those being “Dr. James Andrews.”

Everything seems alright, though. Ruben Amaro says he’s fine. We’re guessing Scott Sheridan is optimistic. Cole Hamels himself will probably tell you all is well and there’s no need for concern. On that, I’ll continue to hold my breath, but as for the comment that Hamels felt some of this discomfort toward the end of last season, was there any noticeable change?

To the eye test, I personally don’t recall Hamels looking adversely affected. The numbers seem to bear that out: a 3.32 ERA in 38 September innings with 44 strikeouts against seven walks are not typically the figures of an injured pitcher. He wasn’t given the Mark Prior treatment, either, throwing 110 pitches at most and fewer than 100 three times that month.

Of intrigue, though, is the note that Hamels’s overall fastball velocity dropped for the third consecutive season in 2012, down to 90.9 MPH from 91.2 in 2011 and 91.7 in 2010. September ’12 was also, on the whole, one of Cole’s slowest fastball months of the year, but no much slower than April that the concern pot should be stirred. Those same P f/x tables show that Cole’s FB movement hasn’t flattened out, either, so despite an uptick in line drives allowed against it, fewer fastballs left the yard for the ever-damaging dinger.

Above, we see graphical representations of Hamels’s horizontal (left) and vertical (right) release points, as documented over the years. The vertical graph shows little difference, but take a look at the horizontal graph on the left. At some point during the season (these graphs aren’t specifically detailed, unfortunately), Hamels reverted back to a release point more like 2011, slightly more three-quarter than over-the-top. While it’s not possible to tell given these tools exactly when this changeover occurred, there’s no clear statistical indicator (in terms of performance) that demarcates a noticeable change; Hamels was pretty consistent year-round.

I’m led to believe the front office when they say this issue is minor. At least, it’d better be.

Leave a Reply



  1. TomG

    January 17, 2013 09:30 AM

    The front office is also saying that Chase Utley is doing “very, very well” – something I’d also like to believe. But two “very”s? Perhaps RAJ doth protest too much? Or am I just being cynical?

    This year more than ever we’ll need all cylinders to be firing to have any chance at making the playoffs, which might be the best we can hope for; because the Nats should run away with the division and, much as I hate to say it, I don’t see the Phillies posting a better record than the Braves, either.

    Get in the playoffs and get hot: that should be the strategy (assuming something as vague and uncontrollable as “get hot” can be said to be a strategy – it’s really just a (perhaps forlorn?) hope). Point is, you don’t necessarily have to be the best team to do well in the playoffs and maybe win it all. If that were the case the Phillies would have won easily in 2011.

    But w/o Utley and Hamels – and Doc, who is also a question mark? It just won’t happen this year.

    So please don’t just be just blowing smoke up our collectives a$$es, front office.

  2. Phillie697

    January 17, 2013 12:40 PM

    Thanks Paul, for making me even more skittish about the Phillies this season.

  3. Rob

    January 17, 2013 01:41 PM

    I’m not saying Ruben is lying when he says Chase is doing well. I’m sure he’s doing well, relatively speaking. But the truth is Chase will probably never be healthy again. To think that he’s doing very, very well is the sense that his problems are gone is just denial.

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