Although Wednesday night ended in defeat due to the bullpen, I actually put most of the blame on Cole Hamels.
I know the bullpen let go of a one-run lead and Hamels only gave up two runs, but this was the fifth day where your ace was pitching. It was also a game where Cole Hamels should have went eight innings, not six.
So my question is: do you consider Cole Hamels an ace?
Well, does he have ace stuff? There is no question he does. He throws a plus-fastball to go along with the best changeup not coming out of Johan Santana’s hand. He's 25-years-old, which means he has not reached his maximum potential. But looking at him, he has not looked like the Cole Hamels we got accustomed to from the last few years.
In 68 innings, Cole Hamels has given up 81 hits. Last year in 227 games, he gave up 193—a few less. His WHIP is 1.39 compared to 1.082 last year, which means that this year he is giving up more hits and walks.
Hamels pitched a career high 227 innings plus the games he pitched in the postseason. So, it is only normal to expect a drop-off since he was a horse last year. Hamels’s ERA is 4.62.
I know it is early in the season, but last year Hamels finished with an ERA of 3.09. As the ace of this pitching staff, you expect Hamels to take the ball every fifth day and pitch well enough to win the game.
However, is Cole Hamels an ace? Well, let’s compare Hamels to another 25-year-old left-hander, Jon Lester. Lester is another phenom who looks like he has a bright future. Many people consider Lester an ace since he threw a no-hitter and pitched better than any AL pitcher at the end of last season.
Last season, Hamels pitched 227 innings compared to Lester’s 210. Hamels had an ERA of 3.09 compared to Lester’s 3.21, while Hamels’s WHIP last season was 1.082 compared to Lester’s 1.274. Lester had a better record despite having a higher WHIP and ERA.
Now, let’s compare this season. Hamels has an ERA of 4.48 compared to Lester’s 4.76. Hamels’s WHIP is 1.39 compared to Lester’s 1.34. Both have struggled, especially Hamels who had a very forgettable first start against Colorado. Hamels was pitching hurt and his velocity was in the mid 80s.
Now let’s go to what I think is the decisive category: post-season numbers. I know the ratings were low for last year’s World Series, but Hamels pitched as good as Sandy Koufax, and in no way was he going to lose a game last postseason.
He went 4-0 and could have been the first pitcher to go 5-0 had the weather permitted. Hamels’s overall record in the postseason is 4-1 with a 2.16 compared to Lester, who pitched the clinching game of the 2007 World Series in one of the greatest comebacks. Lester is 2-2 with a 2.25 ERA.
Now the answer to my question. Do I consider Cole Hamels an ace?
This year he has been nothing close to an ace, but he needs to settle down and start looking like last year’s Cole Hamels. Can Hamels improve? He can and needs to be more of a horse, pitching deeper into games.
What really upset me is that I don’t see Cole Hamels telling the coaches to keep him in the game. I still think he needs to be more of a horse. Remember, this is not a solid rotation.
Joe Blanton is a No. 2, at best. Moyer is a back-of-the-rotation pitcher. Happ is nothing special and Antonio Bastardo is a work in progress who has figured out that you can’t get major league hitters like Jason Bay out on one pitch. He is too hesitant to throw his changeup and eventually hitters will catch up to him, if they already haven’t.
If the team hopes to make another magical postseason run, they will need to acquire a pitcher at the deadline. Talking to ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark at a book signing, he told me that guys like Oswalt and Halladay will not be traded. Guys like Erik Bedard, who comes with a lot of issues, and Brad Penney, who has pitched great but is very injury-prone, will be on the market.
Penney impresses me and can be a great No. 2 to go along with Cole Hamels. The bottom line is that Cole Hamels is an ace. But you simply can’t win a World Series with Joe Blanton as your No. 2.