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.