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Monday, August 29, 2011
Cole Hamels has handle on Cincinnati Reds


(The Cincinnati Reds host the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.)

On almost any other team, a pitcher who has a 2.62 ERA, a WHIP under 1.0 and a wins above replacement (WAR) of 5.0 would be a staff ace.

If you're Cole Hamels, that makes you the No. 3 starter in the Philadelphia Phillies' rotation.

Cole Hamels
Hamels
But really, Hamels is one of three aces on a Phillies staff that’s trying to become the first team since the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers to finish with an ERA under 3.00. Currently, Philadelphia’s team ERA is 3.09.

There are areas where Hamels has been better than both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Hamels’ 0.99 WHIP is the lowest in the National League, and no pitcher has made more starts of seven innings allowing two earned runs or fewer than Hamels has in 2011 (see chart).

If you asked the Reds, chances are they would prefer to face Lee or Halladay. In eight career starts against Cincinnati, Hamels is 7-0 with a 1.43 ERA. (At Great American Ballpark, Hamels is 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA.)

Monday will be Hamels’ first start since Aug. 12. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list earlier this month with a left elbow strain.

Very few Reds players have had success against Hamels, but one player who has is catcher Ramon Hernandez (4-for-9, home run).

Reigning National League MVP Joey Votto has not fared well against Hamels, with just two hits in 16 at-bats. However, Votto is having a great August. He’s hitting .353 and has nine home runs -- only Dan Uggla has more homers (10) in the National League this month.

Votto’s hot August can be traced to his performance when he’s been ahead in the count. Votto is 11-for-21 (.524) with four home runs this month when ahead in the count.

If Hamels wants to get Votto out, he should stick to the changeup. Votto is hitting just .222 against changeups this month, and Hamels' opponents have been hitting just .138 against his changeup.