Sep 23, 2010

The Implacable Cole Hamels

Cole Hamels has risen to the occasion during the stretch drive for the playoffs. He has pitched to a scoreless streak of 25 2/3 innings, the longest such streak by a Phillies pitcher since Randy Wolf in 2002 (27 innings). He also is approaching Steve Carlton's team record of 6 consecutive starts of pitching 6 or more innings and allowing one run or less. Cole Hamels was struggling this year, the naysayers nayed....look at his won/loss record..look at his ERA creeping over 4. Even the optimists were starting to be swayed by a line of no-decisions and the appearance of one tough inning that would spoil a start. Ah, but that was the Cole Hamels of 2009 and April 2010. Let's take a look game-by-game (and even a couple games before it to see how this streak transpired).

It's a little small print. Besides the runs allowed (which is only so much in the pitcher's control at the end of the day...probably). He's allowed only 5 HR and 21 BB over this 14 start time period. To top it off, he's also struck out 101 batters over these starts. Now, that is control, both of commanding his pitches and of limiting mistakes.

By all accounts, it's because his cutter has developed to complement his fastball and change-up. The fastball has touched 93 mph at times, while the cutter has clocked in at 86 mph or so and the change-up is at 81 mph. He doesn't have a deceptive delivery so much as a similar delivery for all three pitches. The cutter has helped because the other pitches work on the up/down plane, and it works on a left/right plane. Intangibly, Oswalt's and Halladay's influence has crystallized preparation and really helped Hamels harness his talent further.

Hamels has taken the mantle of an ace and is the same (or better) pitcher that he was in 2008. His starts speak for themselves. He may not have the 20 wins that Halladay has (not that wins by themselves matter), but he is an apt representation of the potential and present anchor of a Phillies rotation with a 99.9% chance of making the playoffs. Magic Number is 4!

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