In a recent article Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal named a Phillies pitcher as his 2011 NL Cy Young Winner, his name wasn’t Roy or Cliff. It was the 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels. Hamel’s young career has had his fair share of ups and downs. He was an ascending pitcher entering the 2008 postseason and seemed to phinally fulfill his potential with his amazing pitching in the postseason. If he hadn’t pitched so well in that postseason, there is s good chance 08 wouldn’t have ended in a parade. Cole was supposed to the future of our pitching staffs for years to come. He was already being penciled in as our opening day starter for the next decade. Hamel’s 2009 season was delayed because of an injury and he never seemed to recover. During the season we saw flashes of the 2008 World Series MVP but he was never able to consistently get batters out, he finished the season with a 10-11 record with a career high 4.32 ERA. If the 2008 World Series was the extreme high for Hamels; the 2009 World Series was the extreme low.
“I can’t wait for it to end, its been mentally draining.”
That is what Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels said after the teams loss in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series. The Phillies were trailing 2-1 in the series and there was a very good chance Hamels would pitch again. A lot of Phillies Phans including myself where very hard on the young lefty because it sounded as if Hamels wanted to give up on the season. The low point in the game for Hamels was giving up the game tying hit in the 5th while facing the opposing pitcher. Hamels lacked velocity on his fastball during the entire season. The lack of a great fastball allowed hitters to “sit” on the changeup because they knew he couldn’t throw a fastball by them. The season was filled with batters continually fouling off his fastball, causing his pitch count to rise and getting him out of the games early.
Game after game Hamels seemed too look confused and didn’t know what was wrong. The guy who showed little emotion the previous year was noticeably frustrated on the mound. His frustration got the best of him when he threw his glove in air after an Utley error in the postseason, after the game Utley reportedly had a “chat” with the young pitcher. It’s hard to speculate and not really fair, but I believe that it would have been a completely different series if the 2008 Cole Hamels would have pitched in that series.
After the 2009 season Hamels needed to completely regroup and become a better pitcher. There were a lot of people who weren’t sure if we would ever see the 2008 Cole Hamels ever again. It seemed as though “Hollywood” was simply not mentally tough enough to compete at such a high level. But Cole looked adversity square in the face and has reemerged as an even better pitcher than he was before the rough spell. He was determined to become a better pitcher. We all started to notice the change in Hamels at the start of spring training last season. He had noticeably bulked up and gotten himself in much better shape. He knew it was important have his body in great shape to be able to make it through the long season. In addition to a “new look”, Hamels was also working on a cutter that he planned on unveiling.
The pressure as the team’s ace was gone and most phans just hoped Hamels could be a solid 2 for the team. The 2010 season didn’t start great for Hamels, during the first month of the season Hamels went 2-2 with a 5.28 ERA. But as the season started getting into full swing, we started to notice a different pitcher. The cutter stumped hitters and his fastball had new life. We started to wonder if the radar gun was working properly because we didn’t think Cole could throw 95! Hamels quietly started to put up great numbers and his ERA slowly got lower. Due to the lack of run support the 2010 season didn’t earn Hamels any national attention. But he was one of the best pitchers in the league after the all star break. After the All- Star Break, Hamels had 2.23 ERA and WHIP of just 1.00. In the first round of the postseason last season, he showed the league’s highest scoring offense how far he had actually came. He pitched a gem to complete the sweep of the Cincinnati Reds. In his complete game shutout, he allowed only 5 hits and walked none while striking out 9. The little fist pump after the final out was an exclamation point on his season and showed the rest of baseball that he is back.
He has reportedly reported to Clearwater this season in amazing shape. Pitching Coach Rich Dubee has already stated that Hamels could start a game tomorrow if he would have to. Hamels goes in to the 2011 season without much pressure. The Phillies 2011 rotation order hasn’t been set yet beyond Doc pitching opening day, but the assumption is the order will go Doc, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels. But just because he is going to the team’s “4th” starter doesn’t mean he won’t do great things. He already has gotten some Cy Young endorsements. So what kind of season do I expect the 27 year old to have? Sorry to disappoint but I am not going to join Rosenthal on the 2011 Cole Hamels Cy Young Bandwagon, but I’m not saying its farfetched. I think that he will take a major step forward this season and establishing himself as one of the top 5 pitchers in the NL. But in the end I see his teammate Roy Halladay repeating as the winner. Doc’s reputation of going deep into games will allow him to win more games than Hamels.
Over the past 3 seasons, Hamels has had as many ups and downs as many players do in their entire career’s. He has garnered and had to shoulder a lot of criticism with people questioning not only his talent but his heart as well. But he is now a better pitcher because of his struggles. I expect great things from the talented lefty, he may not win the Cy Young but finishing 2nd to one of his teammates wouldn’t be a bad alternative.
2011 Prediction: 18-7 2.74 ERA