2014 Phillies Report Card: Cole Hamels
From way out west there was this fella I wanna tell ya about. Goes by the name of Cole Hamels. At least that was the handle his loving parents gave him, but he never had much use for it himself. See, this Hamels, he called himself “Hollywood”, (does anyone still call him that?). Now, “Hollywood” – there’s a name no man would self-apply where I come from, (no politician here in DC ever wants to be labeled as “Hollywood”). But then there was a lot about Hollywood that didn’t make a whole lot of sense, (his baffling change-up, for the most part). And a lot about where he played, likewise, (their reluctance to come into the modern age of player analytics, among many, many, many other things). But then again, maybe that’s why I found the place so darned frustratin’.
See, they call Philadelphia the “City Of Brotherly Love”; but I didn’t find it to be that, exactly, (what with all the fans booin’ and battery chuckin’ and security guards tasin’ folks and closers crotch grabbin’). But I’ll allow it, as there are some nice folks there. ‘Course I ain’t never been to London, and I ain’t never seen France. And I ain’t never seen no queen in her damned undies, so the feller says. But I’ll tell you what – after seeing Philadelphia, and this here story I’m about to unfold, well, I guess I seen somethin’ every bit as stupefyin’ as you’d seen in any of them other places. So I can die with a smile on my face, without feelin’ like the good Lord gypped me, (even if he is about to let Hollywood be traded. Stupid God).
Now this here story I’m about to unfold took place in the mid-2010s – just about the time of the start of our third conflict with the I-raqis (minus Sad’m this time) . I only mention it because sometimes there’s a man…I won’t say a hard luck loser, ’cause what’s a hard luck loser? Sometimes, there’s a man. And I’m talkin’ about Hollywood here – Hollywood from Philadelphia. Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s just not the man for his time and place. He sticks out like a sore thumb there. And that’s Hollywood. Hollywood from Philadelphia (circa 2014). Sometimes there’s a man. Sometimes, there’s a man. Well, I lost my train of thought here. But… aw, hell. I’ve done introduced it enough.
Cole Hamels’ 2014 did stick out like a sore thumb. The team MVP by far, whose only risks of not being so were an off-season slowdown due to some bicep tendonitis and his possible departure at the non-waiver trade-deadline. Hamels was about the only player on the club you could call a star for the whole year. Chase Utley is a star, and Jimmy Rollins is a star, but there were times this year that they didn’t play like it. Jonathan Papelbon is a star, I suppose, but he seems to be on the verge of a supernova at all times. Cliff Lee is a star, but thinking about how to describe his season makes me want to throw things against the wall until the paint chips, the plaster crumbles, and the studs are turned to sawdust. Hamels, on a club of guys with big names and lesser results for the year, earned every last bit of praise he has been given this year, and every point of the grade I’m going to bestow upon him at the end of this essay.
A lot has been said across the web about Hamels’ season. He was, with little doubt, the second or third best left-handed pitcher in the game from the time he settled in after his injury through the end of the year, being outpaced only by that Dude from Los Angeles with the beard from Lancaster, and maybe Chris Sale, about whom I have no film or regional facial hair reference. From his fourth start on May 11, through the end of the year, Hamels pitched to a FIP of 2.95 and an xFIP of 3.10. Sure, you can crow about an arbitrary start point there, but really, it wasn’t arbitrary. I picked it to show how good he was from when he started to be good after his time off for an injury scare, and to exclude the three lousy starts when he came back. Not arbitrary. Totally intentional.
And he was a hard luck loser on more than one occasion, as has been his lot in life in Philadelphia. He was tagged with a pitcher “L” six times with game scores of 60 or higher out of his nine losses. That’s just a bummer. As I said the other day on Twitter, the eventual Hamels’ statue at CBP will probably be him on the mound looking behind him at aging and rangeless defenders and just hanging his head in disgust. Even more likely, though, it would be him looking at a box score of his hitters and cursing their names. He continued to receive very little run support – his 3.43 runs per game of support ranked 13th worst out of 88 qualified starters on the year. That’s just not right. Also, that’s more an A/V installation than a statue, if we’re to truly hear the curses. Which I think is only fair.
Upon examining Hamels this off-season, my old pal @Matt_Winkelman has noted his velocity continues to be a huge positive, even as Cole begins to age. He talked about it in part three of his “Trading Cole Hamels” series, and not only did we see what Matt points out – a seasonal average velocity that has been increasing with age – but also a monthly peak velocity, as shown here from Pitch F/X at BrooksBaseball.net, that kept climbing as the season wore on:
That September four-seamer touching close to 97? For a guy who started the year with injury concerns and was over-worked on more than one occasion, maxing out velocity at the end of the year is pretty remarkable. It speaks to his general health, I think, and, (I really don’t want to talk about this) certainly would help assuage any health concerns of teams looking to (really don’t want to) trade for him (ugh) this off-season.
Probably, at this point in time, trading Cole Hamels for the right package, is totally the smart thing to do for the long-term health of the franchise. As a prospect fanatic, I can’t help but salivate at what a Phillies system would look like with a couple high-end Cubs or Red Sox kids thrown into the mix. And the front office has readily admitted that 2015-2016 at the least, are lost causes, so what better time to move a guy who has a fair contract and a great possibility of making someone’s team substantially better as they move forward?
And that’s all well good and fine, but as a die-hard Phillies fan for life, my heart says that we all should just shut the frick up about trading Cole Hamels because he’s too cool and awesome as a pitcher and he’s been around for too long to let him go play for some other jerk team that totally won’t “get” him like we do. In fact, after the first sentence of that last paragraph, my heart walked up my chest and through my neck and took a ball-peen hammer to my brain’s kneecaps. And after the second sentence, it kicked my brain in the junk. Just right square in the bit and pieces. And rightly so. The heart wants what the heart wants, and this heart wants my brain to go straight to hell for even contemplating a trade of our precious little Colbert. Especially after a season like this one.
Grade: A+++ with a smiley face sticker and “GOOD JOB, COLE!!!” written in red marker with a circle around it. His mom’s gonna take him out for pizza after this one, I bet. Or hamburgers. Whatever he wants. It’s his special night for being such a great pitcher and an all-around wonderful young man!