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2015 Phillies Player Preview: Cole Hamels

The longest-tenured Phillies pitcher, and probably the most talked about trade target not to be traded in the off-season, lefthander Cole Hamels enters 2015 as one of the league's best pitchers, and one of the best starters in franchise history.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

"Win a championship in Philadelphia, and they'll love you forever."

It's fair to say that a few members of the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies World Championship squad would object to the above statement. Among those players would probably be left-hander Cole Hamels, the MVP of both the National League Championship Series and World Series during that magical postseason run. Just 24 years old that postseason, the slender kid from southern California became the darling of the town and the sports world. Then 2009 happened.

A bizarre mix of poor execution, bad luck, and by his own admission, complacency led to a subpar season in 2009, the only weak season of Hamels' career. He became a bit of a punching bag among the talk radio set, who criticized his purported lack of heart, desire, etc., all of the platitudes that don't pass the smell test but that generate boffo ratings for cynical radio hosts.

But 2009 turned out to be an aberration. Since 2010, Hamels has been one of the most consistently good starting pitchers in the league, with excellent strikeout numbers, a low walk rate, and a better than average ability to keep the ball in the park. He has refined his repertoire, adding a nice cutter and improving his curveball into a credible offering. The changeup, however -- one of baseball's best -- remains his bread and butter.

Constantly overshadowed both by his own prior achievements, and those of his legendary rotation-mates Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, Hamels now finds himself near the top of most Phillies franchise leaderboards (all statistics courtesy Baseball Reference).

WAR for Pitchers (?)

Rank Player WAR for Pitchers IP
1. Robin Roberts 69.7 3739.1
2. Steve Carlton 64.6 3697.1
3. Pete Alexander 60.3 2513.2
4. Cole Hamels 40.4 1801.1
5. Curt Schilling 36.8 1659.1
6. Chris Short 32.2 2253.0
7. Jim Bunning 31.4 1520.2
8. Charlie Buffinton 27.3 1112.2
9. Charlie Ferguson 25.5 1514.2
10. Curt Simmons 24.4 1939.2

Wins (?)

Rank Player Wins IP
1. Steve Carlton 241 3697.1
2. Robin Roberts 234 3739.1
3. Pete Alexander 190 2513.2
4. Chris Short 132 2253.0
5. Curt Simmons 115 1939.2
6. Cole Hamels 108 1801.1
7. Curt Schilling 101 1659.1
8. Al Orth 100 1504.2
9. Charlie Ferguson 99 1514.2
10. Jack Taylor 96 1505.1

Strikeouts per 9 IP (?)

Rank Player Strikeouts per 9 IP IP
1. Cliff Lee 8.844 827.1
2. Cole Hamels 8.529 1801.1
3. Curt Schilling 8.429 1659.1
4. Roy Halladay 7.967 702.2
5. Robert Person 7.941 606.1
6. Ryan Madson 7.814 630.0
7. Brett Myers 7.497 1183.2
8. Randy Wolf 7.437 1175.0
9. Steve Carlton 7.378 3697.1
10. Joe Blanton 7.243 616.1

Innings Pitched (?)

Rank Player Innings Pitched IP
1. Robin Roberts 3739.1 3739.1
2. Steve Carlton 3697.1 3697.1
3. Pete Alexander 2513.2 2513.2
4. Chris Short 2253.0 2253.0
5. Curt Simmons 1939.2 1939.2
6. Cole Hamels 1801.1 1801.1
7. Tully Sparks 1698.0 1698.0
8. Bill Duggleby 1684.0 1684.0
9. Curt Schilling 1659.1 1659.1
10. Eppa Rixey 1604.0 1604.0

Strikeouts (?)

Rank Player Strikeouts IP
1. Steve Carlton 3031 3697.1
2. Robin Roberts 1871 3739.1
3. Cole Hamels 1707 1801.1
4. Chris Short 1585 2253.0
5. Curt Schilling 1554 1659.1
6. Pete Alexander 1409 2513.2
7. Jim Bunning 1197 1520.2
8. Curt Simmons 1052 1939.2
9. Brett Myers 986 1183.2
10. Randy Wolf 971 1175.0

Games Started (?)

Rank Player Games Started IP
1. Steve Carlton 499 3697.1
2. Robin Roberts 472 3739.1
3. Chris Short 301 2253.0
4. Pete Alexander 280 2513.2
5. Cole Hamels 274 1801.1
6. Curt Simmons 263 1939.2
7. Curt Schilling 226 1659.1
8. Larry Christenson 220 1402.2
9. Jim Bunning 208 1520.2
10. Dick Ruthven 198 1262.2
Tully Sparks 198 1698.0

With a good, healthy season, and if he remains in Philadelphia, Hamels could find himself in fifth place on the franchise career wins list, and third in games started. Pretty nice company. But that's only if he remains in Philadelphia.

With the Phillies poised to be one of the very worst teams in baseball, and with Hamels possessing a high but not unreasonable price tag, the 31 year old has been the subject of dozens if not hundreds of trade rumor reports, mostly involving the Red Sox, Padres, and Cubs. The Red Sox rumors have been the most rampant and sustained; having lost Jon Lester, the Red Sox have a vacancy at the top of their starting rotation, and may not have the pitching to match their retooled and loaded offensive attack. It looked like there was a match. Hell, it still does. Something will probably give eventually.

There's a weird parallelism between Cole Hamels, his development, and the rise and emergence of the sports blogosphere. Hamels was drafted 17th overall in the 2002 Amateur Draft, which eventually became known as the "Moneyball Draft," because it constituted a large part of the dramatic backdrop to Michael Lewis's 2003 bestseller's quasi-dramatic narrative about Billy Beane and the Oakland A's approach to player acquisition and development. Hamels failed to merit a mention in the book -- presumably he wasn't on Beane's radar, and for some good reason. Hamels had broken his pitching arm in his junior year of high school in San Diego in an off-field accident. The talent was there, but so was the risk, so he dropped to the Phillies.

In 2002, mainstream sports fans, including yours truly, began congregating in online discussion forums and proto-blogs to discuss their favorite teams. Statistical analysis, of the type discussed at length in Moneyball, took purchase in these forums. A thousand Bill Jameses were born, many of whom launched blogs, who wanted to look past the cliches and conventional wisdom to determine what really made winning baseball happen.

The Good Phight launched in June 2005, almost 10 years ago, when Hamels was still toiling in the minor leagues, and the Phillies were in the midst of a series of frustrating seasons that saw them fall just short of the postseason each time. We all watched and obsessed over Hamels; he was this team's hope, the guy who could push them over the edge and on to postseason glory. Little did we know...

Losing Hamels will be like losing a little bit of our history as a franchise, as a fanbase, and as a blog. All good things must come to an end, but it would have been nice if the team could have kept a decent group of players around Hamels that would not have made his premature departure a fait accompli.

In any event, we will always have our memories of that one prospect who didn't break our collective heart.


Despite missing a couple of starts in early 2014 due to arm soreness, Hamels has been one of the more healthy, durable starters in the league. He has just about everything you're looking for in a pitcher, as discussed above -- misses bats, doesn't give up too many walks, and does a solid job of keeping the ball in the park.

A good athlete (and a very good hitting pitcher), there is not too much concern that Hamels will age any worse than other pitchers in their early 30s. He will probably never seriously contend for a Cy Young Award (at least not in a league with either Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez), but there's no reason to expect anything less than one of the top 10-15 starting pitchers in baseball. If that isn't the definition of "ace," then what is?