Friday, August 20, 2010

Cole Hamels Is Not Struggling

What do the Save, RBIs and Win-loss records for pitchers have in common? All are considered overrated statistics. Those debates have been raised on this site before and we won't (at this time) rehash them. This Fan still believes those stats are important. But we have so many other stats now that we can augment the old reliables with the new and get much more complete pictures of players than ever before. If ever a pitcher could be a test subject for the win-loss thing, Cole Hamels is a fascinating test case. Probably the most fascinating this side of Zack Greinke. Hamels lost again on Thursday night and is now 7-10 on the season. Terrible right? What happened to this guy, right? The answer is simple. He is not terrible and there is nothing wrong with him. His record is myopic.

First, there is run support. In Hamels 25 starts, the Phillies have scored two runs or less ten times. They have scored five runs or less, 19 times. Last year was similar. In 23 starts out of 32, the Philles scored less than five runs. Nine of them were less than two runs. In 2007, when Hamels went 15-5, the Phillies scored more than five runs in 13 of his 28 starts. Not surprisingly, he was 10-0 in those starts. It's easy to have a good winning percentage when your team is getting you a lot of runs.

Last year, easily Hamels worst statistically, his strikeouts per nine innings was 7.8, the same as the year before when he went 14-10 with a 142 ERA+. His walk rate was down and was the best of his career. This year, with an even worse won-loss record than last year, his strikeouts per nine are sitting at 9.2, the best since his rookie year. His walks are slightly up. Well, a little more than slightly up at 2.8 compared to his career mark of 2.4 per nine innings (last year was 2.0). But that's really not a smoking gun, is it?

When Hamels went 15-5 in 2007, his line drive percentage was 16.6%. In other words, in 16.6% of batters at bats against Hamels, they hit line drives. Last year, that percentage was 17.3%. That's up slightly, but not significantly. That statistic is up a little more dramatically this year and sits at 20.3%. But more of those line drives have been caught this year than last year and more were caught in 2007 than in 2009 (judging by BABIP).. Hamels' home runs per nine innings was below his career average last year (1.1 to 1.2) and up slightly this year (1.3). But again, nothing significant there.

BABIP fluctuates for Hamels from year to year. This year it's at .298 or about what you would expect and league average. Last year, it was .321 which is unlucky. In 2008, his best statistical year when his ERA+ was the highest of his career and his WHIP was the lowest, he had a BABIP of .262. So much more of the balls hit against him were caught in 2008 than this year and last year.

This year, in a year when he is 7-10, his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) are in line with this 2007 and 2008 seasons. That means he is just as good a pitcher now as he was in those two years when he had good winning records. His ERA+ is 120 this year, a good figure and well above league average.

Cole Hamels is only 27 and believe it or not, this coming season will be the first that he is arbitration eligible. He only seems to have been around a long time. His won-loss record is deceiving and all statistics seem to show that he is pitching just as well or in some cases, better than his "good" years. His WAR and ERA+ are just slightly under C. C. Sabathia's and Sabathia is 16-5. Hamels simply isn't the guy on the mound when the Phillies have their hitting shoes on. He's still a very good pitcher despite what the surface stats tell you.


Josh Borenstein said...

On the cusp of being a Top 10 pitcher in the NL behind Johnson, Halladay, Gallardo, Latos, Jimenez, Wainwright, Carpenter, Kershaw, Cain, Oswalt, and Lincecum.

Although Timmah has had his share of problems this year. Discussing Lincecum's struggles in depth might make for a good post...

bobook said...

Jeez, Bill--- one look at Heidi and you'd know that!