Cole Hamels’ Struggles Due to More Than Just Poor Run Support
As Matt Gelb astutely noted in his latest column following another Cole Hamels loss, this time at the hands of the offensively-impotent Washington Nationals, the Phillies have scored 20 runs in the 69 innings Hamels has pitched over a span of 11 starts. His run support ranks 99th out of 104 qualified starters according to ESPN. Now with a 1-8 record, the Phillies have lost each of Hamels’ last five starts, even though four of them were decent (yesterday’s start included).
It is quite easy, especially now that Hamels has improved his defense-independent stats lately, to look at the lack of run support and simply label his 2013 season a fluke, unlucky — as we correctly did in 2009. And it would at least be partially accurate, as it is quite true that his defense-independent stats don’t justify a 4.43 ERA and even a 4.43 ERA pitcher would win more than one of his first 11 starts.
To point to bad luck, though, ignores that Hamels is noticeably worse in 2013 than he has been in years past. A few weeks ago, I analyzed Hamels’ struggles through his first seven starts. I concluded that he was having trouble throwing his change-up in the strike zone, while he was leaving his cutter over the plate too often. Through those seven starts, Hamels struck out 40, walked 17, and allowed seven home runs in 45.2 innings. In the four starts since, he has improved in both regards, which has led to 23 strikeouts, eight walks, and only two home runs allowed in 23.1 innings.
Let’s not sugarcoat the issue, though: through the first one-third of his season, this has easily been Hamels’ worst performance of his eight-year career. Thankfully, there is plenty of time for the lefty to get back on track and signs are pointing to exactly that happening already. The last thing the Phillies need is their star lefty, who signed a six-year, $144 million contract extension last July, hitting the skids before he has celebrated his 30th birthday.