In A World Without Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels A Cy Young Candidate
It’s Clayton Kershaw‘s world; Cole Hamels is just living in it. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ lefty seems well on his way to a third career National League Cy Young award, leading the league with 15 wins, a 1.82 ERA, six complete games, a 0.83 WHIP, a 32 percent strikeout rate, a 195 adjusted ERA, an 8.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a 1.84 FIP. Assuming Kershaw doesn’t completely fall apart, he will lead the league in ERA for the fourth consecutive season. He is the Pedro Martinez of our generation: a pitcher so obviously dominant and so far ahead of his peers, even at the top.
If we can engage in a thought experiment, though, let’s imagine the National League existed without Kershaw and was otherwise unchanged. In that world, Hamels is a contender for the Cy Young award.
In his last start on Wednesday, Hamels lasted only five innings against the Seattle Mariners, allowing three runs on nine hits and a walk while striking out four. It was, however, the 16th consecutive start in which Hamels allowed three or fewer runs, dating back to the beginning of June.
Even with the shaky start to his season — he sat with a 4.43 ERA through his first seven starts leading into June — Hamels’ numbers are outstanding. His 2.53 ERA ranks fifth in the sans-Kershaw National League and would represent a career-best if the season ended today, as would his 146 adjusted ERA.
By FIP (3.00), Hamels ranks seventh in the Kershaw-less league; seventh by xFIP (3.21) and eighth by SIERA (3.29). Only five other starters have struck out batters at a higher rate than Hamels’ 24 percent. Hamels has been less stingy than the elite with issuing walks, so his 3.33 K/BB ratio only ranks 15th.
At a glance, here’s what the field looks like (via FanGraphs):
The one area that hurts Hamels is the lack of innings as a result of missing the first three and a half weeks of the season due to a left shoulder injury. Hamels is about 40 innings behind Cueto, who is Hamels’ equal or superior in several important areas.
If the Phillies’ rotation stays on schedule, Hamels will get 7 more starts:
- August 26 vs. Washington Nationals
- September 1 @ Atlanta Braves
- September 7 @ Washington Nationals
- September 12 vs. Miami Marlins
- September 17 @ San Diego Padres
- September 23 @ Miami Marlins
- September 28 vs. Atlanta Braves
By weighted on-base average, the Nationals (.312) rank fifth of 15 NL teams; the Braves (.304) rank eighth; the Marlins (.308) rank seventh; and the Padres (.284) are dead last. It’s not a particularly difficult task for Hamels to dominate between his next start and the end of the season. In a world without Kershaw, Hamels very well might have been able to pitch himself into the conversation for the NL Cy Young award award.
But, as was mentioned, the award is almost certainly going to Kershaw, barring some completely uncharacteristic meltdown or some wonky balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Nevertheless, Hamels is due praise for his outstanding performance in what has otherwise been another forgettable season of Phillies baseball.