Why Cole Hamels Will Rebound in the Second Half

July 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

Cole Hamels’ struggles this season have been curious, to say the least. His peripherals look similar to, if not slightly better than in 2008, when he posted a 3.09 ERA and 196 Ks over 227.1 innings. 

Something is clearly going on, though at this point what “it” is a mystery, which has contributed to him posting a line of:

5 Wins
98.0 Innings
4.87 ERA
1.38 WHIP
98 Strikeouts (7.81 K/9)
18 Walks (1.65 BB/9)
.348 BABIP

The strikeout rate is very similar to last year’s 7.76. The walks are actually at a career low after posting BB/9s of 2.11 and 2.10 the previous two seasons. His flyball rate is down slightly from 38.7 percent to 36.8 percent, though the HR/FB is up from 11.2 percent to 13.5 percent.

Yes, that may contribute to a slight regression, but not the disastrous first half he’s posted.

Last year his fastball averaged 90.4 mph, while this season he’s at 90.0. There is no difference there, but the amount that he’s throwing his fastball is up significantly:

  • 2007: 54.3 percent
  • 2008: 54.8 percent
  • 2009: 59.6 percent

That certainly makes you wonder, especially considering the success that he had last season. Is it just the situations, or is he calling for more fastballs? It’s possible.

Could he just not have the same confidence in his secondary pitches? This is also possible. 

He was consistent between 2007 and 2008, when he was extremely successful and emerged as one of the best young pitchers in baseball. His decision to become more reliant on the fastball, like he did in his rookie season of 2006 (61.1 percent and posted a 4.08 ERA), tells us something.

Is it enough to explain such a drastic falloff, though?

Remember, he did have a problem with his elbow during the spring, though there has been no talk of that being a lingering issue. We could speculate that it has affected his performance, but I’m not buying it. 

Could a significant increase in innings be playing a factor? 

In 2007 he threw a total of 190 innings between the regular season and the postseason. Last season he was at 262.1.

I’ve never been a big believer in that theory. 

People had the same concerns about Tim Lincecum entering 2009, and look at how he’s performed (2.33 ERA, 1.05 WHIP). 

To make a blanket statement that pitchers cannot handle an increased innings load is a mistake because each pitcher is unique. 

Some will prove capable, and some will prove incapable.

It’s like anything else in life.

Maybe he’s the one that will prove unable to throw such a drastic number of innings from year-to-year, but to me, that is still an unproven theory. In fact, when you look at his second half numbers the past two seasons, it appears likely he will get better as the season wears on:

  • 2007: 5-1, 2.78 ERA
  • 2008: 5-4, 2.98 ERA

That doesn’t seem like the profile of a pitcher who tires due to excessive innings, does it?

You can’t even look towards the hitter’s haven he calls home, considering his ERA at Citizen’s Bank Ballpark is 3.92, compared to a 6.34 ERA on the road. Last season he posted a 2.99 home ERA, so it’s obvious he knows how to pitch in that park.

The truth of the matter is that he’s simply not performing this season thus far, but is it really something to be concerned with?

He’s allowed four or more earned runs in seven starts this season, matching his total prior to the All-Star Game in ‘08. 

Granted, his first half ERA last season was 3.15, compared to 4.87, but a lot of that has to do with significant bad luck.

His BABIP ties him for the third worst in the league with Aaron Harang, behind only Ricky Nolasco and Kevin Slowey. It would seem almost impossible to expect him to continue pitching to such bad luck.

He’s too talented a pitcher to continue to struggle like this, and sooner or later his numbers are going to regress back to the mean. 

He has proven to be an excellent second half pitcher, and with improved luck, there’s no reason to think he’s not going to return to pitching like one of the aces of the league.

Would I shy away from acquiring him? Not at all. 

If you are looking for pitching help in the second half, he’s a prime candidate to help push you over the top. With the way he’s continued to struggle, someone in your league may even be willing to sell a little bit low on him. I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.

Here are my second half projections for him:

73.0 IP, 7 W, 3.45 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 64 K (7.89 K/9), 24 BB (2.96 BB/9)

What do you think? Will Hamels be able to recover and return to dominance? Is he a pitcher you are shying away from? Are my projections too optimistic?


Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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