In most cases when you win the Most Valuable Player award in the World Series one season you are expected to perform and perform well the next. The previous 10 winners include all-stars Mike Lowell, David Eckstein, Jermaine Dye, Manny Ramirez, Josh Beckett, Troy Glaus, Curt Shilling, Randy Johnson, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera all whom which have appeared in at least two all star games.
So when an ace pitcher such as Cole Hamels has a not so prototypical season, you start asking yourself some questions. Why is he so hot some months and so not in others. In May and July the Phillies were 9 and 2 in his eleven appearances. In June and September he posted a 3.31era and 3.32era. But in April and August he posted a 7.27era and a 4.91era going 0 and 5 in the process.
Then it clicked during his game 5 start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. Hamels is lacking the usual concentration when putting hitters away this season. It was in this game that Hamels would give up three solo home runs. The first two to Andre Ethier and James Loney on 1-2 counts on pitches over the plate. And the third to Orlando Hudson in the fourth inning shortly after the Phills blew the game wide open. Then I began thinking about the home run given up in the previous playoff series to Yorvit Torrealba, starting catcher for the Colorado Rockies.
Yorvit Torrealb is many things and a home run hitter is not one of them. In fact he hit only two dingers throughout the entire regular season his last on May 6, over 5 months prior to his playoff home run against Hamels. But this seemed to be a reoccurring theme for Hamels throughout the season. In fact 8 of the last 11 home runs given up are that of the solo persuasion.
Looking at his statistics over the past four seasons, we can see that Hamels is not putting hitters away on pitcher friendly counts this season. A lack of concentration is affecting his execution. The 2009 season saw a jump of 22pts in batting average against with an 0-2 count than his previous career high. And even worse it would see a jump of .49pts on 1-2 counts than his previous career high.
We all have watched him pitch over his last 5 outings. His stuff is there. His fast ball is locating. His change up is fooling batters. Even his curve is working. In tough games this regular season, when it mattered the most he stepped up his game. Earlier this year he pitched a gem against the Yanks earning a quality start. In 2 starts against the rival Dodgers he posted a .56 earned run average. He even outdueled Dan Haren early in the season when he was unbeatable.
I can only show you the numbers and the numbers show that he is not finishing off hitters this season like he was the past three. Is it fatigue? Is it personal matters? I can’t answer that. But what I do know is that he has shined brightest throughout his career when it matters most.