Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Moving Up On The Depth Chart

Cole Hamels has officially moved up on the depth chart with last night’s impressive performance against the Mets.

The game offered a highly attractive match-up between Pedro Martinez, the aging star, and Cole Hamels, who has “star written all over him” according to no less an authority than Atlanta’s Bobby Cox, who has seen a few good pitchers in his time. As it turned out, only Hamels lived up to his advance billing this night as Pedro hit two batters and balked in a runner with the bases loaded while allowing six runs in one inning of work before departing with a strained calf muscle. The guess here is Pedro has more problems than either he or the Mets are willing to acknowledge. Throughout his one inning of work, during which he faced nine batters, Martinez failed to throw more than a couple of fast balls and those were only in the mid to upper 80’s. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn his shoulder is giving him problems as well.

But enough about the past, this post is about the future, specifically of Cole Hamels, who is suddenly the Phillies’ number one starter if by that we mean a pitcher who can take the ball every fifth day and pitch with consistency and confidence and, oh yes, win the game. This was Hamels’ fourth straight strong outing. As Marcus Hayes’ summarized things, [Hamels] began his career 2-5 with a 5.98 ERA in 11 starts. He is 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA in his four starts since, with 34 strikeouts and five walks in 28 1/3 innings.

Hamels arrived a bit prematurely in Philadelphia, summoned in desperation to fill out a rotation in tatters. He pitched decently in those early starts, showing flashes of brilliance, while making rookie mistakes, not the least of which were discovering that major league hitters are very good indeed at hitting the fastball. While he has three excellent pitches, he could not consistently throw two of them for strikes in those initial outings, especially his breaking ball, as he walked far more batters than was his custom. When he tried to sneak the fastball by batters, they turned them around eleven times for home runs in his first seven starts. In his last fours starts, however, he has yielded a lone round tripper. The key has been a complete command of all of his pitches, which he has mixed up masterfully.

Hamels works quickly, establishing his rhythm from the first pitch of the game. As of yet, opposing teams haven’t taken to stepping out of the box on him as much as they almost certainly will to try and upset his pace. His look is all business on the mound and at the plate, where he takes his hacks with obvious gusto. Even in the dugout he is just as likely to be pacing as sitting. The kid has a lot of energy and competitive fire, much different in its expression but similar in character to that of fellow youngster Chase Utley.
Comparisons to another tall lefty in Phillies history are inevitable and, one hopes, Hamels’ career will follow a similar path.

When Hamels is on the mound he, Utley and Howard constitute what is arguably the most exciting trio of youngsters in the game today.


J. Weitzel said...

The amazing part is no walks against the best lineup in the National League. He never gave in. It was like he was toying with them with that curveball. Where did that thing come from?

Corey & Carson said...

"most exciting trio of youngsters in the game"...very well put!

Tom G said...

I'm giddy.

RickSchuBlues said...

Right on with your assessment of Howard, Utley, and Hamels. Now *that's* a core.

All Hamels needs is a slider and a healthy shoulder, and he's "Lefty II".

Tom Goodman said...

As a team the Phillies may break our hearts, but as long as these three are around we should derive years of pleasure from watching them.

Management faces a tough decision. At what point do they offer Howard and Utley long term deals and for how long? It seems to me the Mets set some sort of standard with Reyes and Wright. Do it early enough and the price may be right. It's always a gamble of sorts (Mr. Pat Burrell would be Exhibit A), but Howard and Utley already show more maturity than Burrell. It's too soon to speak of deals for Hamels, but how can we not be impressed with his natural ability as a pitcher as well as his obvious intestinal fortitude in overcoming a shakey start in the big leagues.

tc said...

I was thiking of the Utley/Howard contract idea the other day. It seems like the BIG lesson is to stay away from no trade clauses like the plague.

J. Weitzel said...

It will be time to talk long-term with Utley after the season. He's the best second baseman in baseball, and you don't want to risk losing him to the highest bidder. I would wait a while on Howard. It's still only his second season. As for Hamels, they shouldn't even begin thinking long-term with a rookie with a history of injury.

Rev. Smokin Steve said...

At the very least, Hamels has given us the first glimpse of him bouncing back from a tough time. It's something Gavin Floyd had trouble doing. It is a good sign.

Corey & Carson said...

Hear this: I LOVE Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, but they are older than Jose Reyes and David Wright. Without looking up the ages, I do believe Ut and How are 27 each, and Reyes and Wright 23/24...that makes a difference when talking about long term deals.