Thursday, May 16, 2013
Thoughts: What's wrong with Cole Hamels?
By David Schoenfield
Reaction to Wednesday's games ...
- Watched a lot of the Indians' 10-4 win against the Phillies on Wednesday afternoon as Cleveland knocked around Cole Hamels, who fell to 1-6 with a 4.61 ERA. Ignore the win-loss record since that's dependent upon run support. Has Hamels been as bad as that ERA? That ERA ranks 79th out of 110 qualifiers, which means Hamels isn't pitching like a $19 million pitcher. (Only five, or possibly six, years to go on his contract!) It's pretty easy to pinpoint his issue: Walk rate up 4 percent, which translates to 1.6 more walks per nine innings, strikeout rate down 1.5 per nine). Basically, he's taken one strikeout per game and turned into one walk; such is the fine line between one of the best pitchers in the game and a guy with a 4.61 ERA. A quick look at the numbers suggests his changeup has been fine (.077 average, no home runs), although he has walked seven batters on PAs ending with the pitch compared to just 10 all of 2012. Hitters have been pounding his fastball: Six of his nine home runs allowed have come off the pitch compared to 10 in 2012. Hamels is too good to keep struggling like this; pitchers of his quality don't usually lose their command overnight. Hamels will figure things out and since the Braves have come back to the pack, the Phillies are still just 3.5 games out of first.
- The Indians, meanwhile, continue to score runs, ranking tied for second in the AL at 4.9 runs per game. While everyone pointed to Cleveland's rotation as the big problem in 2012 (and it was), the offense was equally bad. Only Seattle scored fewer runs in the AL as the Indians ranked 13th out of 14 teams in slugging percentage. They did rank sixth in OBP so there was some ability here. They just needed power and Mark Reynolds has been the big key there with his 11 home runs. Jason Kipnis hit a three-run homer against Philly and after a slow start he's coming around, hitting .288 with six homers his past 16 games. It's a good offense, nothing flukey going on here. Now if the pitching ...
- Watched Shelby Miller in his first start since last week's one-hit, 13-strikeout shutout. He struggled with his command, especially in the first two innings when he threw 45 pitches. He tried to mix in his changeup more, throwing it 10 times after throwing it only 10 times total in his first seven starts. (Congratulations, Mets, you are now used for practice purposes!) Mets announcer Keith Hernandez pointed out that Miller was tipping the pitch by slowing his arm motion down a bit. Only two of the 10 pitches were strikes, so the changeup remains a big work in progress for the young righty. Still, despite battling his stuff all night Miller still pitched 5.2 scoreless innings.
- Obviously, a huge lift for the Dodgers as Zack Greinke returned from the DL and pitched 5.1 solid innings in a 3-1 victory over the Nationals. "Stuff was pretty good, just stamina needs to be a little bit stronger," Greinke said. "I was feeling pretty drained after the fifth." His fastball velocity wasn't great -- around 90 -- and I thought he got away with a few pitches, but he made pitches when he had to and didn't walk anybody. He replaced Josh Beckett, who hit the DL with a pulled groin, so the rotation is still a work in progress. Now if Matt Kemp can get his power stroke going ...
- Another win for the Pirates as lefty Wandy Rodriguez shut down the Brewers' right-handed attack. Rodriguez is a solid 4-2, 3.25, and has walked just nine batters in eight starts. I still have doubts about the Pirates' rotation, but if Rodriguez can keep pitching like this, he's a nice No. 2 behind A.J. Burnett.
- The Astros won in dramatic fashion as Miguel Cabrera flew out to the warning track with the bases loaded for the final out.