Stats & Info: David Golebiewski

FanGraphs: Hamels is pitching like an ace

May, 5, 2010
Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels put on a pitching clinic Tuesday night. In eight innings, he struck out eight Cardinals batters and walked two, allowing just one run to cross home plate. His signature changeup was in fine form: According to Pitch F/X data from, Hamels threw 23 of his 28 changeups for a strike, and St. Louis hitters swung and missed at 11 of those off-speed offerings.

Expect more performances like this from Hamels in the days to come. Although the 26-year-old entered Tuesday's action with a 5.06 ERA, he lowered that mark to 4.42 last night. And his peripheral stats suggest that he has been one of the best starters in the National League to this point.

In 38 2/3 innings, Hamels has whiffed 10.24 batters per nine innings, while allowing 2.79 walks per nine. Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Clayton Kershaw and Bud Norris are the only Senior Circuit pitchers with a higher K rate. Hamels is doing a great job of getting batters to chase his stuff off the plate, as opponents have swung at 31.6 percent of his pitches outside the strike zone. (The major league average this season is 27 percent.) That's a career-best rate, and it places him in the top 10 among NL starters.

Despite the strong peripherals, Hamels' numbers have been dragged down by abnormally high batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and home runs per fly ball figures. Hamels has suffered from a .356 BABIP in 2010, compared with a career .298 BABIP. Also obscuring his excellent pitching is a 16.7 percent home run per fly ball rate, well north of his career 11.9 percent clip and the league average, which typically sits in the 10-12 percent range. Hamels was also a bit unlucky last season, as his strikeout, walk and home run rates were virtually identical to his 2008 marks. However, his BABIP went from .270 to .325, and his ERA jumped from 3.09 to 4.32.

With fewer bloop hits falling in and fly balls finding the stands less often, Hamels should see his ERA dip this season. He currently holds a 3.31 expected fielding-independent ERA (xFIP), which gauges a pitcher's performance based on strikeouts, walks and a normal home run per fly ball rate. That places Hamels seventh among NL starters.

Roy Halladay may be the talk of the town, but Hamels gives the Phillies a second ace.

David Golebiewski is a writer for FanGraphs.

FanGraphs: Why Geo Soto will bounce back

March, 12, 2010
Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto ramped up his workout routine during the winter, shedding serious pounds after a disappointing, injury-plagued sophomore season. During his Rookie of the Year Award-winning 2008 campaign, Soto batted .285/.364/.504 and ranked third in the majors among catchers with 4.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Last year, he hit just .218/.321/.381, falling to 1.2 WAR.

However, a huge chunk of that slide was due to his minuscule batting average on balls in play, and history suggests that we shouldn’t expect Soto to be nearly as unlucky in 2010.

In 2008, Soto had a .332 BABIP -- league average is usually around .300. That figure plummeted to .246 in 2009, despite few changes in his offensive profile. Soto's walk rate actually rose from 11 percent in 2008 to 12.9 percent in 2009, and he cut his strikeout rate from 4.5 percent to 23.3 percent. The 27 year-old swung at fewer junk pitches thrown outside of the strike zone (17.8 percent, compared to 20.1 percent in 2008) and took a cut at more hittable pitches within the zone (65.3 percent in 2009, up from 64.1 percent in 2008). Soto also made more contact, putting the bat on the ball 78.3 percent of the time he swung in 2009, compared to 74.7 percent in 2008.

Soto's Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average) did fall, from .219 to .163. But that's still more pop than most backstops display. The average major league catcher posted a .141 Isolated Power in 2009.

For 2010, most projection systems figure that Soto's BABIP will bounce back to a level near his career .305 mark. Chicago's catcher possesses rare patience and power at a position where offensive production is often scarce. With more bloops and seeing-eyes singles evading gloves, Soto should post a much better batting line this season.

David Golebiewski is an author of FanGraphs.