Apparently, the Cubs have reached the Strawberry Fields after watching too many Tyler Chatwood starts, and are trying to get out of this trip before it gets any worse. They have acquired Cole Hamels from Texas, and though we don’t know exactly what’s going back the consensus seems to be it’s all very low-level prospects who wouldn’t help much before 2022. The Cubs are about now, so let’s hope that’s the case.
However, Hamels comes with a lot of blinking lights, and when you’re a pitcher blinking lights are not what you want, at least after you take the mound. Forget what you remember about Hamels. Forget the no-hitter here. Forget the playoff hero of 2008, as that was ten damn years ago. This is a 34-year-old with nearly 2500 regular season innings on his arm, and it’s showing.
Hamels has a 4.72 ERA and a 5.20 FIP, or a DRA of 6.20 and a DRA- of 140.7. He’s been worth negative WAR. This is like watching “Hostel: Arlington.” More worrisome, Hamels has given up a ton of loud contact, and much like blinking lights, loud noises are a bad thing for a pitcher. He’s giving up a 45 percent hard-contact rate, and nearly a 25 percent line-drive rate. These are both career highs, and by some distance. Hamels has given up 23 homers already, and has a Monty Python-esque 20.1 HR/FB%.
The hope is that getting him out of Texas will be the cure. And sure, the FIP on the road for Hamels is at least a close-to-stomachable 4.17. He’s only given up seven homers on the road. Hitters slug nearly 200 points less on him when in the grays so far. But the problem is the contact numbers are still the same whether home or road. Loud noises are loud noises, and blinking lights follow loud noises regardless of the locale.
Stuff-wise, the velocity has fallen a bit the last few years, and Hamels is attempting to counter that by throwing way more cutters than he has. He should probably stick with that, as he’s gotten a .238 average out of hitters against it. The four-seamer, meanwhile, has been a Ryan Gosling movie to your girlfriend/boyfriend invitation, however.
He has been getting a good whiff-rate, though, and that must be what the Cubs are focusing on.
What it really means is that either Mike Montgomery gets a stay of execution and will stay in the rotation, or he’s been so good the Cubs realize they’re going to need a multi-inning weapon out of the pen to compensate for all the innings their starters aren’t throwing. Monty is more likely to be that than Chatwood. You can see Montgomery throwing three innings out of the ‘pen twice a week instead of six innings once a week. It might take that. It might take two of those guys to do that. And the Cubs might be thinking just that when Yu Darvish returns.
If he returns.
Lead photo courtesy @Rangers on Twitter