We all saw what held the Phillies back in the World Series last fall: Pitching. While the pitching woes could be pegged on just about anyone on the entire staff, few problems were as glaring as the struggles of the 2008 World Series MVP and the perfect closer from the same championship season.
While Brad Lidge seemed to regain his form a bit in the most recent postseason, Cole Hamels did not. In 2010, with Roy Halladay set to take charge of the starting rotation, it will be up to Hamels to improve his game and provide the Phillies with a 1-2 punch that most teams will envy. The potential is there; now Hamels needs to make it happen.
After pitching 227 innings in 2008, in addition to his 35 postseason innings, the wheels fell off early and often for Hamels in the 2009 campaign. He struggled through a mediocre season, with a career high 4.32 ERA, and allowed 206 hits and 95 runs while throwing his second lowest strikeout total (168). With a record of 10-11, Hamels finished the season with the first losing record of his young career.
It is no secret that Hamels comes off like a diva at times. His post game comments can leave a lot to be desired for the general fan base located in Philadelphia. Philadelphia sports fans want to hear their favorite players erupt with emotion, much like Brian Dawkins did as an Eagle. While Aaron Rowand was a fan favorite for his actions on the field and his words before and after games, Hamels has come off looking more like Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Does Hamels want to win? Of course he does. Even during his lamentable 2009 season Hamels showed signs of brilliance, including his clinic against the Los Angeles Dodgers. But all too often, even after he got off to a good start, Hamels seemed to get rattled by errors and found himself unable to adjust in pressure situations.
Heading in to the 2009 season, Hamels acknowledged he did not prepare properly before spring training as he was coming off a deserved celebratory offseason. After being named World Series MVP, Hamels was in demand for banquets, public appearances, dedications, and other Phillies oriented events. Now Hamels realizes just how important the offseason is (or at least the Phillies fans hope he has learned his lesson).
The 2010 season will mark the fifth year in Hamels' career. In some minds he has yet to fulfill his potential. I would argue that he is constantly overrated based on what he has done to this point. The flaws, to me, are obvious:
- Surrendering too many home runs
- His 48-34 is inflated by a 15-5 season (2007)
- A run total that is growing by the year
- Allowing seven hits per game over his career
To be considered a front of the rotation pitcher, Hamels must show improvement this season. Halladay will take some of the pressure away from Hamels by leading the starting rotation. Hopefully Hamels takes some notes form the former Toronto Blue Jay.
There is no question that Hamels has what it takes to be a 15 game winner in this league. He won 15 games in his first full season and won 14 games in 2008, even when the offense cost him multiple games in the process. Truth be told, Hamels could have picked up a couple wins in 2009 if the offense had shown up more often as well.
How do you think Hamels will perform in 2010? Share your thoughts in the comments section.