Cole Hamels: Still A Beast?

PROMOTED from FanPosts. Good stuff. Love that K/9. - WC

Cole Hamels' start the other day confused me greatly. Stuff-wise he seemed utterly dominant with 10 K's in just 6 innings pitched (despite, as I noted in the game thread, a strike zone that resembled one of these more than an actual strike zone). I suspected that he is still getting some pretty crappy luck, but his 6th inning meltdown just seemed so predictable that I began to question whether the Cole-bashing, WIP-listening goons might actually have a point. The mere thought sent a shiver down my spine and gave me a serious case of the dry heaves. So like any sane person, I took my nausea medication (yep, that) and visited Fangraphs. 

What I found should bode well for Cole's future. 

Cole's 2010 BABIP: .357 (This is unsustainable--even for Cole--and a telltale sign that he is still being victimized by bad luck)

Cole's 2010 HR/FB%: 20.6% (His career rate is 12%, so 20.6 will almost certainly not be sustained.)

Cole's 2010 K/9 rate: 10.57(!) (Excellent)

Cole's 2010 groundball %: 46.6% (A good sign--he is keeping the ball on the ground at a higher rate than he has in his entire career)

Cole's 2010 xFIP: 3.35 (Look at this number to see how well he is actually pitching underneath everything. In a nutshell: when it comes to the things Cole is able to control, he is pitching better than he has in his entire career)

To sum up, Cole is striking a lot of guys out, and keeping the ball on the ground well, but an unusual number of the balls that opposing hitters put in play are going for hits and an unusual number of balls hit in the air are leaving the ballpark. Assuming his BABIP and HR/FB% drop back to his career marks, it is almost a guarantee that Cole's ERA will improve given the other numbers. As hard as it is for people to swallow, he has still been victimized by an incredible amount of bad luck.

I do still have some questions though: Could there something about the quality of Cole's pitches themselves over the past season-and-an-eighth that has left him particularly vulnerable to bad luck. I am not capable of analyzing his pitchfx data, but could location and/or pitch selection and/or pitch velocity be a cause of this paradox? Also, this could just be fan perception, but why does he tend to fall victim to meltdowns around the 5th or 6th inning? I absolutely hate the "Cole lacks composure" line, but could this be possible? I mean, I don't believe the guy is a "mental midget" or whatever, but could there be something about the way he pitches when he encounters trouble that could explain this phenomenon? It's food for thought.

But to answer my own question, yes, the numbers tell us that Cole is pitching like a beast, his ERA just isn't reflecting it right now.

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