Back to the Old King Cole

Cole Hamels has been absolutely dominant the 2nd half of the season, especially his last 4 starts where he’s 4-0 with a .76 ERA.  Baseball is all about making adjustments; batters adjust to pitchers, and the pitchers adjust to batters.  That’s exactly what Hamels has done this season.    

Hamels came onto the national stage in 2008 with a superb postseason.  He won the NLCS and World Series MVP awards.  In five starts, Hamels went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA.  In the regular season, Hamels went 14-9 with a 3.09 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 196 K’s in 227.1 IP.  Even in 2007, Hamels went 15-5 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.12 WHIP.  

In 2009, the hitters adjusted to Hamels and got to him.  Cole saw significant decreases in his statistics.  During the regular season, Hamels struggled, going 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP.  All season long, the fans just assumed that Cole would regain his 2008 form in the postseason.  It didn’t happen.  In the playoffs, Cole struggled in 4 starts posting a 1-2 record with a 7.58 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP. 

This year, Cole is back to being Old King Cole.  Don’t look at the record (11-10); he doesn’t get any run support.  So far this season, as of today, Hamels has a 3.01 ERA, 1.16 WHIP with a career-high 201 K’s in 194.2 IP. 

So, what is Cole doing differently this season?  There are actually a couple of different things.  Some people think that Hamels tired out last year after throwing 227.1 innings in 2008.  In my opinion, I just think the batters adjusted to Hamels.  

Let’s go back to 2007 and 2008.  Hamels was strictly a 2-pitch pitcher; the fastball and changeup.  He had a 90-93 mph fastball to go along with that devastating changeup.  Last year, Cole tried to add a curveball to his repertoire, but he clearly didn’t feel comfortable throwing it.  The tilt on it wasn’t great when he threw it.  

This year, Hamels has finally adjusted to the hitters.  He’s now a 4-pitch pitcher; the fastball, cut fastball, curveball and changeup.  His velocity on his fastball is way up over recent years.  Over the last month, the fastball has been approximately 92-96 mph.  He’s also mixed in the cutter and curveball more and more often.  To show you this, I’ve gathered some statistical information to show you that he’s indeed incorporated the cutter and curveball more as the season has gone along.  I have 2 sets of data, the percentage of times he’s thrown each pitch over the season, compared to his last 5 starts. 

            2010 MLB Season

Fastball-           58%

Changeup-       26%

Curveball-        9 %

Cutter-               4 %

            Last 5 Starts

Fastball-           53%

Changeup-       24%

Curveball-        9%

Cutter-              14%

As you can see, he’s getting much more comfy using and locating the cut fastball.  He’s hitting the glove with the pitch on a fairly consistent basis.  The curveball percentage has been the same throughout the season, but the tilt on the pitch has enhanced drastically.  Last night was arguably his best start of the season.  He went 6.2 IP with 13 strikeouts.  He’s putting it all together. 

When it comes to the mental part of the game, Hamels has definitely matured.  He’s now 26, married with a newborn child.  Even when I watched last night’s game, Hamels complained on a couple occasions on some pitches.  In year’s past this would come back to haunt him.  Not last night, he’s the calmest I’ve ever seen him during his career. 

 

We saw it all the time.  Hamels would cruise through 5 innings, and then have his patented “Blow-up” inning.  His face would look much like the image above.  The innings would start with either an error in the field, or a bad-umpiring call.  His emotions would get the best of him.  He’s learned to control those emotions. 

As the Phillies head towards what looks like another postseason appearance, Cole is an intrical part of the rotation.  If he can pitch the way he did in 2008’s postseason, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Phillies could be holding up another World Series crown by season’s end.

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