Cole Hamels and the Hall of Fame

Drew Hallowell

What does Cole Hamels need to accomplish in order to be considered a legitimate candidate for the Hall of Fame?

Cole Hamels did it again last night.

The best home-grown starting pitcher the Phillies have developed, since, well, maybe ever, pitched eight shutout innings against the San Diego Padres last night in the Phils' 3-0, walk-off win.

As is usually the case with Hamels, he did not receive the "win" for his performance. But that is nothing new.

Last night, Hamels struck out 11 Padres and walked just one, and among Phillies pitchers who have pitched in at least 256 games...

Here are some other phun phacts about Cole that should make you realize that dude is earning every cent of his seven-year, $153 million contract.

So, Cole Hamels is pretty good, and you should yell at people who tell you otherwise.

With Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins finishing up two spectacular careers, there is a lot of talk about their Hall of Fame chances. And for good reason, as both will likely be on the bubble for consideration, with both giving themselves an opportunity to make their cases stronger over the next couple years.

But what about Hamels? Cole is about five years younger than both Chase and Jimmy, with more of his peak years still ahead of him. What are his chances of reaching Cooperstown, and what does he need to accomplish in order to get in?

I know it's probably way too early in his career to be talking about this, but it's a Thursday in mid-June in the middle of a lost Phillies season so, let's have some fun.

Here is the average Hall of Fame pitcher's numbers, compared to what Hamels has done in his 9-year career so far (numbers courtesy of Baseball Reference).

W L ERA IP BB SO All-Star WAR
Average HOF Pitcher 254 178 2.97 3816 1051 2084 4 70
Hamels Career 101 77 3.38 1656 415 1568 3 35

It's clear there is still a lot of work for Hamels to do. But perhaps we should also be looking at some of the pitchers who made the Hall of Fame but didn't quite measure up to what the "average" Hall of Fame pitcher accomplished, especially when you consider that the "average" Hall of Famer's numbers are skewed by the ridiculous totals of old timers like Cy Young, Old Hoss Radbourn, and Walter Johnson.

W L ERA IP BB SO All-Star WAR Cy Youngs MVP
Catfish Hunter 224 166 3.26 3449.1 954 2012 8 36 1 0
Bob Lemon 207 128 3.23 2850 1251 1277 7 37 0 0
Dizzy Dean 150 83 3.02 1967.1 453 1163 4 43 0 1
Lefty Gomez 189 102 3.34 2503 1095 1468 7 43 0 0
Hoyt Wilhelm 143 122 2.52 2254.1 778 1610 5 50 0 0
Early Wynn 300 244 3.54 4564 1775 2334 7 51 1 0

Obviously, most of these pitchers came from a different era, a time when their careers were interrupted by military service. Bullpens weren't as important, relievers were used less, there was less specialization and starters were expected to pitch deeper into games.

That said, when you look at those six Hall of Fame starters, perhaps the task for Hamels isn't as improbable as it would first seem.

Perhaps a better benchmark would be a recently-retired starter who will likely be on the bubble of Hall of Fame consideration for the next few years, Curt Schilling.

W L ERA IP BB SO All-Star WAR Cy Youngs MVP
Curt Schilling 216 146 3.46 3261 711 3116 6 80 0 0

Like Hamels, Schilling suffered while playing for some poor Phillies teams that gave him no run support and cost him a lot of the counting stat "wins" that have historically been so important to Hall of Fame voters. And Schilling's WAR is more than double what Hamels' is, so Cole would need to do some serious catching up there.

However, like Schilling, much of the argument for Hamels' inclusion will be his postseason record, which is quite good.

W L ERA IP BB SO Awards
Hamels Playoffs 7 4 3.09 81.2 21 77 NLCS/WS MVP

This is obviously not an argument that Hamels is a Hall of Famer now. Clearly he is not. But what does he need to accomplish in order to be a legitimate candidate?

Even though the "win" stat is an antiquated and mostly useless metric, Hamels would probably need to reach 200 in order to get his foot in the door. He probably needs to do some combination of win a Cy Young Award, reach 3000 strikeouts, keep his ERA below 3.50, and/or continue to bolster his postseason reputation.

Can he do it? He's just 30 years old now and has a WAR of 1.2 this season. With the exception of 2009, Hamels has had a WAR over 4 every year since 2007, and over the last four years (not including this season) his average WAR has been 5.3.

If he can put up a WAR of 5 over the next three seasons, that gives him a career total of 50, and a couple more 3-4 WAR seasons in his mid-30s would put him in the 60-70 range. Hamels has also averaged 210 strikeouts a season in his career, and another five 200-strikeout seasons puts him at about 2500 for his career.

And of course, a Cy Young or two would help cement the deal.

Much of the Hall is about counting stats, and the length of Hamels' career will dictate how many of those he'll be able to accumulate. It's possible he could go another 8-10 years pitching effectively, although it's just as likely he'll wear down by around age 36 or 37.

Or maybe he'll break down next week, given the way the Phils have been riding him this year. No one knows.

Hamels has an uphill road to the Hall, although it's not an impossibility. The likelihood is he'll fall short of reaching the milestones needed to get in, but my guess is he'll get close on most of them.

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