Back when Ryan Howard was just another unknown minor league player, he remembers seeing a fellow teammate walking into the locker room with board shorts and flip flops. He gave the guy one look and gave him the nickname Hollywood because he just had the"look". It turns out the Hollywood looking guy was current Phillies Ace and member of the “High Phive” Cole Hamels. Then the nickname Hollywood Hamels was born. Now a few years later both are now crucial members of one of the best teams in baseball. Despite being just 27 Cole already has accomplished a lot in his short career. Cole was selected to the National League All Star team is 2007 and he was named the 2008 World Series and NLCS MVP. He can now add the #9 ranking on our 2011 Best Athlete in Philadelphia to his list of accomplishments.
Growing up in San Diego Hamels was able to grow up watching former Padre great Trevor Hoffman who had one of the best changeup’s baseball has ever seen. The changeup was a major reason for the success of the future Hall of Fame Pitcher and it is a major reason why Hamels is known as one of the best lefties in the game. Hamels devastating changeup can make hitters look foolish. Out of his hand the ball looks like it is a fastball and the hitter ends up being way out in front of the pitch. Adding to the deception of the pitch is he likes to throw it in fastball counts. In his last spring training start Saturday versus the Orioles, Hamels had loaded the bases and ran the count full versus a Baltimore hitter. The hitter was positive he would get a fastball and was ready to unload on it. But Hamels threw the changeup and the hitter had no chance. Along with his changeup up, Hamels also throws a 4 seem fastball that sits at 92-94 and reaches 95+ at times, a cutter and he will occasionally throw a curve ball.
The last few seasons have been a roller coaster ride for Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. He went from being on top of the sports world in 2008 when he was the World Series MVP, to a complete mess for most of the 2009 season. A reason for his struggles during the season was because of a lack of velocity on his fastball. Hitters knew he couldn’t throw a fastball by them, so they would sit on the changeup and foul off the fastball. After a disappointing 2009 season, Hamels needed the offseason to regroup and prepare himself physically and mentally for the 2010 season. During the offseason he got himself into much better shape and added a cutter to his repertoire.
After a slow start to the 2010 season, Hamels rebounded and quietly had a very impressive season despite his low win total. Last season Hamels had a career best 3.06 ERA but only managed to secure 12 wins because of a lack of run support. He was one of the best pitchers in the game after the all star break posting a 2.23 ERA. Cole was able to put an exclamation point on the season when he pitched a complete game shutout versus the Reds to send the Phillies to the NLCS for the third consecutive season. He held the highest score team in the league to no runs and 5 hits while striking out 9. The usually emotionless Hamels gave out a Tiger like fist pump as the final out was recorded.
“Like from last year he's bigger, he's stronger. He's added a cutter. His fastball, his velocity is up from last year. Basically he sits there right now I'd say he sits there like 92, 94, 95 consistently, and whereas before he was like 88, 92. And I think the cutter's helped him. But I think he's grown up a lot from just the part of the experience of going through a tough year.” Charlie Manuel on 2010 Cole
Cole’s poor 2009 season and slow start last season has put him on the back burner on the minds of a lot of national baseball fans but Hamels deserves to be in the discussion with the game’s best. Lefties who can throw 95 MPH are rare and ones with a devastating changeup are even rarer. Hamels has already proven he is a big game pitcher with his amazing performance during the 2008 Post Season. He is a completely different pitcher mentally that he was in 2009, he once again possesses the cool demeanor he showed as a youngster. The struggles he had in 2009 are gone and he is a much better pitcher because of it. Hamels is just entering his prime and it can’t hurt that he gets to pitch alongside the other aces. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hamels has a Cy Young Caliber season and pushes Doc for the team’s best pitcher. Hamels is a pitcher on the rise once again whose successes and failures have molded him into the pitcher he is today. He has the potential to be higher on our list but for this year, he will come in at #9.