At the age of 24, lanky southpaw Colbert Richard Hamels was on top of the world. After a great 2008 MLB season with the Philadelphia Phillies, “Hollywood” Hamels led the Phillies to the postseason following their second consecutive National League East title. What Hamels did in the 2008 postseason, though, was on a whole new level.
Through five starts in the 2008 playoffs, Hamels went 4-0 with a 1.80 earned run average, only missing out on what would have been a record five postseason victories because of a rain delay in the deciding game five of the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, which finished his outing after 75 pitches (the game would be finished nearly two days later.)
Hamels went on to win the NLCS and World Series MVP award in 2008, as his Phillies went on to defeat the Rays in five games. 2009, however, wouldn’t be so kind to Hamels.
From the start, Hamels wasn’t right. Excuses can be made for Hamels struggles. It could have been the fact that he pitched 262 innings between the regular and postseason alone. It could have been his newly acquired fame, with new endorsements and talk show appearances, which cut down on his offseason work and preparation for the upcoming season. It was probably both.
In 2009, Hamels spent some time on the disabled list, battling a string of small, nagging injuries. Despite the time missed, Hamels still threw more than 190 innings in 2009, though his ERA jumped well over a run from the year before. Hamels showed brilliance at times, pitching a pair of complete game shutouts. But for every gem Hamels threw, there were a few duds to go along with it.
When looking at just the popular stats, Hamels appears to have taken a significant step backwards. But upon looking at other, more important stats when judging a pitcher, Hamels appears to just be on the wrong end of a string of bad luck.
While his Hits/9 innings increased by a full two hits, his BB/9, K/9, and K/BB rates were all nearly identical in 2008 and 2009. Hamels’ BABIP was very good from his MLB debut in 2006 through the 2008 season, but jumped significantly in 2009, a sign that Hamels may have just been the victim of some bad luck.
Fans in Philadelphia are known to be, well, harsh. Any negative incident that has ever happened in Philadelphia (insert throwing snowballs at Santa, throwing batteries at JD Drew, or the recent “vomit incident” story here) is blown out of proportion and brought up a million times to show how bad Philly fans are. But there has been a large contingent of ungrateful Philadelphia fans calling for Hamels’ head for well over a year now.
It seems that they have forgotten that this man, who has gone through his fair share of struggles recently, is the young man who helped bring a championship to their city after a 25-year championship drought. In October of 2008, Hamels was the most beloved southpaw in Philadelphia. By October of 2009, Hamels was seemingly hated throughout the city.
In his first two starts of the 2010 season, Hamels was mediocre, but not as bad as his line indicated. Then, in his third start of the season, Hamels seemed to have put it all together, going a strong eight innings and shutting up many critics. It would be temporary, however. In his most recent start, however, Hamels was roughed up after giving up a crooked number that included three homeruns in a single inning, after cruising up until that point. And now, the critics are back, calling for his head once again.
These “fans” seem to think they know baseball better than the Phillies front office. Go to any Phillies blog or website, and you’ll see people talking about how the Phillies should have kept 31-year old Cliff Lee and traded the younger Hamels. These people seem to forget that Lee also experienced some struggles late in the 2009 season, as well as in the World Series. And these people don’t realize that you don’t trade a young left hander with stuff like Hamels has just because of some struggles.
Hamels will get better. He likely won’t consistently be the player he was in 2008, but he’s better than the 2009 version, and will likely fall somewhere in the middle. Hamels is here to stay in Philadelphia, at least for now. But all of this booing and criticizing of Hamels is only going to make him less likely to want to continue his career in Philadelphia once his contract is over. And Hamels is a guy you want on your team, because we’ve already seen how he can carry a team for a stretch run.