With each successive outing Cole Hamels gives further indication he is the real deal. The strikeouts are impressive. The bases on balls continue to decrease. The home runs are coming less often. His command of all three pitches grows. Most impressive, however, is his poise and confidence. This kid never lacked the latter and with each start demonstrates the former. Not only does he belong in the big leagues, he knows it. Speaking to reporters after last night’s start in Atlanta, he had this to say: "I feel comfortable out there. I feel like I'm meant to be out here. My routine is down. There hasn't been too many days off, which has been nice. And I think I just feel more focused."
There are more than a few veteran pitchers on this staff who might take note. As is always the case, major league pitchers rarely get by on stuff alone; what’s inside matters in the end. When Hamels was brought up in June, the company line was there was nothing left for him to learn at the minor league level despite his brief exposure there, a tenure made even shorter by the number of injuries he’d suffered. Here was yet another kid thrown into the breach, forced to learn on the job as the Phillies literally scrambled for healthy, reliable starting arms. The most notable failure on that front was Gavin Floyd, awarded a starting job out of spring training but clearly never up to the task once he faced a steady diet of big leaguers. Fortunately, it turns out the alleged brain trust was right in their assessment of Hamels’ skills and character.
* * * * * * * *
I needn’t write of Ryan Howard’s prowess with the bat (see Jason Weitzel’s Beerleaguer for a superb poetic take on that subject), but it is worth mentioning two other facets of his game. Howard’s defense has improved considerably since the early season when a lack of concentration, not skill, plagued him. He routinely makes the tough scoops and his throwing is much more consistent. He handles foul balls near the railing with considerable skill as well.
The other facet is his base-running. For a big guy Howard shows remarkable speed and agility. Though he was thrown out at third last night trying to stretch a double into a triple, he made the play close. Only a perfect throw to the cut-off man and his perfect relay nailed him. Howard cuts the bag with the agility of a small man and his slides, head or feet first, are equally adept. There aren't any holes in this kid's game except for the high number of strikeouts, which will come down with experience.
* * * * * * * *
I remain convinced the Phillies have little or no chance of signing David Dellucci, but it is becoming more evident they should try to talk extension with him before the season concludes. Dellucci has started nearly every game since Bobby Abreu departed, mostly in right but occasionally in left spelling the slumping Pat Burrell. As his playing time has increased, so has his offense, though scouting reports suggest his historic weakness against lefties limits his effectiveness as an everyday player. Defensively, he doesn’t have much of an arm but at least he is fearless, which makes him as good if not superior to one of the guys he has replaced.
Based on his performance to date and his relatively cheap salary, Dellucci can expect to receive a lot of interest in the off-season. That prospect alone makes it unlikely the Phils will have much of a chance to re-sign him if they cannot get a deal done prior to the end of the season.