Cole Hamels in Danger of Being Overworked

Cole Hamels has been the definition of a workhorse throughout his Phillies career. He’s tossed 200-plus innings in five out of his last six seasons, and that sixth was 183 1/3 innings in 2007. In 2008, Hamels logged 227 1/3 innings along with an additional 35 in the playoffs. If there’s one player to whom the term “overworked” wouldn’t apply, it would be Hamels.

Hamels, however, is now 30 years old and only a couple months removed from tendinitis in his left shoulder. Upon his return, manager Ryne Sandberg and Hamels’ own mediocre performance limited his workload, as he tossed 86, 106, and 98 pitches in his first three starts of the 2014 season. However, he threw 133 pitches in seven innings against the New York Mets on May 11. At the time, it was easy to understand why Hamels started the seventh inning even though he was already at 111 pitches — the bullpen was and still is wholly unreliable. It was no surprise when the ‘pen snuffed a two-run lead, allowing three in the bottom of the ninth inning for a walk-off loss in Queens.

Hamels’ work load in the next three starts wasn’t so bad: 90, 91, and 99 pitches, all seven-inning performances. Over his last two starts, though, Hamels has logged 125 pitches each time. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but this chart shows how unprecedented that is for Hamels over his nine-year career:

The data:

Year # GS % of Starts
2006 0 23 0.0%
2007 0 28 0.0%
2008 1 33 3.0%
2009 0 32 0.0%
2010 1 33 3.0%
2011 1 31 3.2%
2012 1 31 3.2%
2013 0 33 0.0%
2014 3 9 33.3%

Despite having made around four fewer starts than his peers, Hamels leads all starters in a stat from Baseball Prospectus called Pitcher Abuse Points as well as in “stress”.

The Phillies still owe Hamels $96 million through 2018. This season is shot, so why risk damaging the most valuable part of the team going forward? If the Phillies contend at all in any of the next three years, it will be because of Hamels. No one wants to watch the bullpen any more than they have to, but it will be better for the team in the long run.

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35 comments

  1. Keith

    June 10, 2014 08:29 AM

    Finally, something about Hamels being overworked. There is no reason why we should be using him this much when they’re is very little chance of this team doing anything. It’s not even like the starters are doing well anymore.

  2. tom b

    June 10, 2014 09:07 AM

    don’t know if it’s a common problem for 1st time mgrs. seems like it to me. i believe the phillies have 3 of top 19 in pitches per start and even kendrick is at #41. i know he doesn’t trust his bullpen,but this seems like typical phils thinking. don’t worry about tomorrow because the world could end today.

  3. MMM

    June 10, 2014 09:34 AM

    Pitcher Abuse Points? How many Abuse Points did Steve Carlton retire with? I think I read the other day that Domonic Brown could be leading the league in Smiling Abuse Points. Maybe Revere and Howard in Lineup Abuse Points. For sure Philadelphia leads the world in Santa Claus Abuse Points, but that is in football so I am digressing.
    What happens when you take Hamels out every 5th day after the 6th inning, does Jake Diekman, get his Abuse Points? See you in 2016, Mr. Hamels. Maybe by then I can watch you go for the complete game when it is relevant.

  4. Carmine Spellane

    June 10, 2014 09:51 AM

    Who does Sandberg think he is, Gene Mauch?

  5. Beez Nutz

    June 10, 2014 11:21 AM

    I kind of agree with keeping his innings down, but only because of how bad this team is.

    In reality though I think his repertoire of stuff / his pitching style really allows him to be more of an innings eater than most of the upper echelon pitchers, who generally are in the “power pitchers” category. I wouldnt call Hamels a “finesse pitcher” but he’s closer to that than a power pitcher.

  6. Ryan

    June 10, 2014 11:27 AM

    We should eat most of the money on his contract and trade him. THAT could replenish the farm and turn things around faster. We really need an Astros’ style rebuild and I don’t think that RAJ has the balls to do it. Bring on Sam Hinkie!!

    • Eyetest

      June 10, 2014 11:36 AM

      Yes. A million times, yes.

    • Beez Nutz

      June 10, 2014 02:36 PM

      Not sure why your getting all these down votes for your comment. I’d be on board with unloading Hamels and Lee (if he proves he’s healthy) while eating a ton of salary for prospects.

      it wont happen but i’d be on board with it.

    • adam

      June 10, 2014 08:14 PM

      When is baseball going to allow trading for draft picks!?! We could trade Hamels for someones #1 next year and future picks plus some prospects. Win Win..of course, since that won’t happen, I almost don’t trust Amaro to actually bring back talent if he was in control of the trade of hamels

      • Joe

        June 11, 2014 05:28 AM

        But odds are draft picks never materialize into major leaguers. A low level prospect is a long shot to make the majors but drafft picks are just prospects even futhur from the bigs. This isn’t football were a team can tum it around in a year with a great draft.

      • adam

        June 11, 2014 11:05 PM

        I’ll take those odds at a high #1 pick in a year were not.going to compete. Heck, it seems like were all agreeing that it’ll b a few years. Nola an another top ten with franco an crawford an another top 20 pick to go along with our assumed top 5 pick would show some promise at least is all.im saying

  7. Nick

    June 10, 2014 12:15 PM

    That chart is grossly misleading. I agree that it’s a problem to be monitored, but come on, throwing a number like 33% up there when he’s only made a third of his starts for a season, just creates an exaggerated visual effect.

    • Bill Baer

      June 10, 2014 12:27 PM

      What’s exaggerated about this?

      2006-13: 4 starts of 125+ pitches in 244 starts
      2014: 3 starts of 125+ pitches in 9 starts

      • Nick

        June 11, 2014 01:44 PM

        Nothing, the numbers are right. I just think that visually you see such a huge jump up in the graph and you go “OMG the sky is falling”. It’s only a third of his starts for the year, it could tick up or down, but we won’t know what that graph would look like relative to the other full seasons worth of starts until October.

        I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m saying the visual representation in graph form creates a larger reaction because of the sss.

  8. George Callanan

    June 10, 2014 09:05 PM

    Come on . First of all Bill we are not going to contend in the next three years. This is one of the worst teams in baseball. Hamels signed a $144 million dollar contract. In the last two seasons he has 9 wins that’s one per month. I am not interested in feeling sorry for him being over worked. When you get that kind of money you should be trying to be a Cy Young candidate not winning a game a month. He is a number 3. When he was he got to 16 wins once. He is not a number 1. Do not feel sorry for him, he is laughing all the way to the bank. Enough is enough.

    • Jonathan

      June 11, 2014 12:46 PM

      Who still uses Wins to measure a pitcher’s performance?

      • hk

        June 11, 2014 08:30 PM

        George Callahan and Ruben Amaro, Jr.

      • Chris S.

        June 12, 2014 09:30 AM

        Also Hamels won 17 games in 2012.

  9. Vince

    June 10, 2014 09:27 PM

    I’m so fed up with this idea of overworking pitchers. It seems to me that some guys are injury prone, and some aren’t no matter how many pitches he throws or doesn’t. If Cole has Tendinitis now. He’ll have it again, no matter how many innings he plays this year. However, I agree that at this point there is no reason Hamels should be pitching +125 pitches unless he’s going for a shutout or lord willing no hitter/perfect game. All that being said though, the idea of Hamels being the guy to build a future rotation around isn’t the best idea for two reasons. 1 – He is not as consistent as a #1 starter should be. He is a solid #2 starter in an average rotation, and a #3 in a great one. He hasn’t shown signs of dominating a game in quite some time. 2 – He doesn’t seem like the type of guy to be a leader and set a good example for younger players in the years to come. We all know what a lil wus (for lack of a better term) he could be. I’m completely fine eating up a chunk of his contract if we can unload him. The problem is… He won’t be good enough to justify a decent return if the Phills do so. Therefore, they won’t, and we are stuck with Hamels for better or worse. Hopefully better.

    • hk

      June 11, 2014 07:05 AM

      Since there are 30 teams and you think he’s a solid #2 – I’m assuming by solid, you mean one of the top 5 or so #2’s, that means that you think there are 30 to 34 better starting pitchers. Name them.

      Before you do, you might want to know Hamels’s ranking among all qualified starters in SIERA over the past 7 seasons was as follows:

      2013: 19th
      2012: 8th
      2011: 6th
      2010: 11th
      2009: 17th
      2008: 15th
      2007: 10th

      • Bob

        June 11, 2014 11:40 AM

        Even looking at Fangraphs WAR, he’s in the top 30 most years since 2008.

        2013 – 20th
        2012 – 14th
        2011 – 15th
        2010 – 35-39 range (all have 3.5 WAR)
        2009 – 29th
        2008 – 20th

  10. George Callanan

    June 12, 2014 07:08 AM

    I have one question for GM hk, which do you prefer a pitcher who is 12-0 with not the most impressive statistics or a pitcher who is 4-8 with great statistics. Since when do statistics get you into the playoffs. Only one statistic gets you in the playoffs wins.

    • Chris S.

      June 12, 2014 09:29 AM

      Hamels was outstanding last night, but didn’t get the win. Does that mean his start meant nothing? A pitcher can only do so much to get a win, or do you fault Hamels for not hitting a HR last night? In the AL the pitcher doesn’t even get the chance to help himself at the dish so really they are completely reliant on their offense to get the win. If a pitcher is 12-0 with not great stats it is probably more of an indication that the teams offense is awesome, not how great the pitcher actually is.

      • George Callanan

        June 13, 2014 06:49 AM

        If Hamels pitched every game against the Padres he would be a super star. They have 190 some runs which is pathetic. This is the worst in baseball by a mile. They have the worst batting average in baseball by 12 percentage points. This team makes any pitcher look good. Look at Hamels statistics against first and second place teams. Hk started this. Stats can be misleading. Earlier one person said Hamels could be having a good year with no wins at the all star break. Think about that.

      • hk

        June 13, 2014 07:31 AM

        Above, I posted Hamels’s ranking among qualified SP’s in SIERA and Bob showed his ranking in fWAR. For those who are more concerned with actual results, following are his ranking in ERA:

        2013: 46th
        2012: 12th
        2011: 8th
        2010: 17th
        2009: 62nd
        2008: 10th

        What stats are misleading besides Pitcher Wins?

      • George Callanan

        June 13, 2014 06:13 PM

        Okay Hk first you compared me to Amaro. For weeks I have been bashing that bozo. Second you never answered the question of which pitcher’s record you would prefer 12-0 with mediocre stats vs a pitcher who is 4-8 with good stats. You let Chris do your talking. Third you can’t read because you spelled my name wrong. And finally if I asked Cole Hamels if he would rather be 12-0 with not great stats or 4-8 with good stats. I guarantee he would select 12-0 you clown.

      • hk

        June 16, 2014 07:18 AM

        George,

        Someone else asked the question about who still uses Pitcher Wins as a statistic to measure a pitcher’s performance. I did not compare you to RAJ. I just answered the question – and I apologize for my typo – that you and he are the only two people I know who do this, you in your comment above and RAJ in his comment this off-season about Kyle Kendrick. I do not conflate this fact with your prior criticism of RAJ.

        As far as your question about which pitcher I prefer, if I have to choose between them for the rest of this season, give me the one with the better stats.

        Let me pose a question to you. Which of the Cubs pitchers would you rather have, Jeff Samardzjia, who is 2-6 with a 2.77 ERA, or Travis Wood, who is 7-5 with a 4.48 ERA?

  11. George Callanan

    June 16, 2014 06:57 PM

    Hk remember wins are a stat. Tom Brady last week said I do not care about any stats except wins. Performance includes wins. Performance includes all the stats . Wins are part of stats . I except your apology. Lets see how Hamels does against Atlanta and The Cards. I hope he does well. All hall of fame pitchers have a crazy number of wins if they have an ERA that is under 3 but 150 wins they are not getting in.

    • George Callanan

      June 16, 2014 09:47 PM

      Hamels was a stud tonight against the Braves. He keeps it up and I will start believing . The Cards are next. I hope he does it again. Win or not win. Still hope he wins he deserves it. This isn’t the Padres.

    • hk

      June 17, 2014 10:12 AM

      You are right. Wins are a stat. In one case, Pitcher Wins, they are a nearly worthless stat. In another case, Team Wins, they are the most important stat. Of course, all athletes would tell you that all they care about is that the team wins, whether it’s Cole Hamels or Tom Brady or LeBron James….and I agree with the players and with you about Team Wins. Now, deep down, if you don’t think Brady cares about his completion percentage or his TD / INT ratio or that LeBron doesn’t care about his numbers, I have a bridge over I-495 to sell you.

      Last night, Colby Lewis of the Rangers gave up 5 ER, 10 H and 3 BB while striking out 2 in 5 1/3 IP while Hamels threw 7 shutout innings with 5 H, 2 BB and 6 K. Lewis got the Pitcher Win, while Hamels did not. Why, other than that there is some imperfect criteria for determining Pitcher Wins, would you care about which pitcher got the win?

      • George Callanan

        June 17, 2014 01:28 PM

        Hk you play the game to win. This deep down stuff implies that Brady is not telling the truth. The Phillies attendance keeps dropping because they are losing the games. Analytics does not put people in the seats. Wins do. Hamels deserved to win. Like I said he pitched great. The team is everything. Lebron went to Miami because it gave him a greater chance to Win Championships over Cleveland . Cleveland did not win enough for him. Winning is not a worthless stat. Individual performance is a bigger deal in golf, wrestling and boxing but in team sports it’s about getting the wins. Who cares about a player’s stats if he is on a last place team. Only Fantasy coaches. Not the true fan.

      • hk

        June 17, 2014 09:47 PM

        George,

        Do you believe everything that you hear or read an athlete say?

        Which part of my comment leads you to believe that I don’t value Team Wins?

  12. George Callanan

    June 18, 2014 07:50 AM

    Hk now you group what all athletes have ever said. I believe what Tom Brady said over what you say. You see even you are all about winning because you always want to WIN the debate.

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