Cole Hamels is a starting pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. He is left-handed.
2013 Season: 8 - 14, 3.26 FIP, 8.26 K/9, 2.05 BB/9, 42.7 GB%, fWAR: 4.2, ERA+ 106 in 220.0 innings pitched.
Steamer........ 12 - 11 W/L, 8.21 K/9, 2.22 BB/9, 0.92 HR/9, 3.38 FIP, 192.0 innings, 3.3 fWAR
Oliver............ 15 - 9 W/L, 8.33 K/9, 2.02 BB/9, 0.95 HR/9, 3.35 FIP, 217.0 innings, 3.9 fWAR
Contract: Through 2018 at $22.5 million per year with a club option for 2019
Cole Hamels had an ERA+ in 2013 of only 106. This was the second-lowest number in his career, surpassing only the 97 he posted in 2009 following the huge workload he had in 2008. His 2013 decline was masked to a degree by a HR/FB rate that was the lowest of his career at 9.1%. Similary, his HR/9 was the second-lowest in his career as well.
He is on the wrong side of 30, and his fWAR declined for the second year in a row following his career year in 2011 (when he was 27 years old). We've 'enjoyed' a number of years of decline from the position players who came to Philadelphia ahead of Hamels, and 2014 may be the year we get to enjoy the same from him.
Hamels has avoided any major injuries, posting over 200 innings every year since 2008, except for 2009 (192.0). That is a heavy workload, and a consistent one for a pitcher who carried an "injury-prone" label early in his career, though part of that was the broken hand that was essentially self-inflicted as a result of a bar fight. If anything, he has proved the early naysayers wrong, but pitchers are pitchers. They break.
Even if Hamels doesn't break down with a major injury, his age suggests (but does not guarantee) that his best days are likely behind him, though there is no reason he can't rise up for another good season, either. It just gets slightly less likely each year he spends on the wrong side of the aging curve.
On the bright side, he is nothing if not consistent and good, since mere consistency is not in and of itself a good characteristic. After all, I hoped just yesterday that Roberto Hernandez would be inconsistent, since that would require Hernandez to be good in 2014.
Hamels' peripheral numbers looked good last year, with his K/9, BB/9, and GB% all within career norms. The exception was his aforementioned HR/FB%, though sometimes HR rates vary because of variability and sometimes because of qualitative aspects of the pitcher's performance (i.e., getting their mistakes clobbered). While Hamels' variability was of the good kind (depressing the number of homers he gave up), I am not optimistic that he will sustain that lower home run rate. The reason I doubt it will be sustained is that Hamels has essentially the same repertoire of pitches and he is older and he is pitching in the same unmodified ballpark.
I am hopeful that the Phillies will get another year of "classic" Cole Hamels, but at some point, we will start to see chinks in the armor. He's not blossoming anymore, folks, and we need to be prepared for him to eventually show signs of decline. Entropy: You can't win, you can't break even, and you can't quit the game, or something like that.
Prove me wrong, Dream Boat.
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