Manuel’s frustration with Hamels and appreciation for Martinez are surely understandable, but the quantitative case for the move is not strong. Despite lackluster results, Hamels is statistically the same pitcher now as he was during last year’s path to glory: he notched 7.8 strikeouts, 2.1 walks and 1.1 home runs per nine innings in 2008, compared to figures of 7.8, 2.0 and 1.1 in 2009. His fastball velocity has remained constant as well at just over 90 miles an hour.
Hamels’s disappointing record is the result of an inflated batting average on balls in play, a statistic that pitchers have little control over: last year’s .270 mark was well below the league average, while this year’s .325 is far above it. That suggests Hamels was particularly lucky last season and particularly unlucky this year. Going forward, he remains comfortably in the second tier of the game’s starters.
Even if the Martinez we’ve seen this year is the one we should expect Thursday night, he is still not as good as Hamels. The Yankees are too good at depositing mistakes in the upper deck, and his questionable stamina means the Philadelphia bullpen is more likely to be taxed. Manuel’s choice makes for a great story, but don’t be surprised if it has an unhappy ending for Phillies fans.
Somewhere, someone wrote or said that Hamels is better at home than on the road, and there might be something to that. Career-wise, he's got a 3.43 ERA in Philadelphia, 3.90 everywhere else. But is that balanced by the short dimensions in the new Yankee Stadium's right field? Wouldn't you want a left-hander on the mound to perhaps neutralize the Yankees' left-handed power? And isn't Pedro Martinez, with his tendency (this season, anyway) to give up big flies just the wrong man for this particular job?
I agree with Dan: Hamels is better than Martinez. But if this World Series goes more than five games, they're both going to start two of them. And I'm not sure it makes any real difference in which order they start them. If Manuel winds up being second-guessed, it won't be for starting Pedro ahead of Hamels -- it'll be for starting Pedro instead of a younger pitcher like Joe Blanton or J.A. Happ.