BP's new expert on pitcher mechanics debuts with a primer on the most important components of the pitching motion.
My name is Doug, and I am a baseball junkie.
It all started with an eight-year old kid and an innocent pack of Topps baseball cards. There must have been something laced into that stale piece of gum, because my formative years are nothing but a haze of cardboard stats, makeshift whiffleball fields, Mark McGwire moon shots, and heated Saberhagen-Valenzuela duels in RBI Baseball. By college I was on to the hard stuff, with fantasy baseball teams stretching as far as the eye could see, buoyed by the mass consumption of designer statistics like VORP, PAP, and EQA.
Continuing an analysis of Cole Hamels' 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Two weeks ago, I wrote an article on Cole Hamels on the day that the Phillies clinched the National League pennant, explaining in detail that I do not believe that there is anything wrong with Cole Hamels, and that the difference between 2008 and 2009 is abnormally good luck in the first and abnormally bad luck in the second. The first clue was that he had similar peripheral statistics in 2008 and 2009. He struck out 21 percent of hitters in both years, and walked just over five percent of hitters in 2009 after walking just under six percent of them in 2008. His ground-ball rate stayed roughly the same, rising from 41 to 43 percent. The difference came from his BABIP jumping from an incredibly fortunate .262 to an incredibly unfortunate .321. It has been shown many times before that BABIP is a statistic with low persistence, and that pitchers see their performances jump up and down constantly with respect to this statistic. As a result, much of year-to-year fluctuation in ERA is tied to fluctuations in BABIP. Unsurprisingly, Hamels ERA went from 3.09 in 2008 to 4.32 in 2009. As Hamels' peripherals indicate an ERA around 3.65, it seems likely that he had a mixture of good luck in 2008 and bad luck in 2009 that belied his ERA.
Is the pitcher taking the mound in this year's NLCS Game Five that much different from last year's?
At this point in the season, most baseball fans are aware that the Phillies' Game Five starter this evening, Cole Hamels, has had far more trouble preventing runs in 2009 than he did in 2008. In 2008, Hamels seemed unhittable for much of the season and the post-season, and the Dodgers knew going into Game Five last year that they had their work cut out for them as they faced elimination, down three games to one. After knocking him around in the fifth inning of last Thursday's series opener, the Dodgers are confident that they are up against a different pitcher than the one that stymied them for the clincher last October, as they face elimination yet again.
Checking in from the scene of the action of the NLDS pitting the NL East against the NL Wild Card.
PHILADELPHIA—It is hard to imagine Cole Hamels being anything but cool. The Phillies left-hander with blond streaks in his black hair grew up in Rancho Bernardo, California, a suburb of San Diego, and his perfect day when he was single was to sleep until noon, go to Del Mar Beach, play volleyball, surf on a body board, and cook out. Now that's cool.
What Cole Hamels accomplished in his first 13 trips to the mound as a professional ballplayer is simply astounding.
Starts Innings Hits Home Runs Walks Strikeouts ERA
13 74 2/3 32 0 25 115 0.84
He faced 268 batters and retired all but 60 of them. No less than 43% of the plate appearances by opposing hitters ended with the umpire yelling strike three. His rate of 13.86 strikeouts-per-nine-innings is a remarkable 95% above the league average and the best of any full-season starter in the game. There's no question that Hamels earned his promotion to the Florida State League.
The Phillies cleared him with their team doctors, along with the ones who originally worked on Hamels' arm, then signed him at the end of the summer for $2 million, the 13th-largest bonus given to anyone from last year's class. His arm was not in game shape when he arrived for the Fall Instructional League, and he made his only appearance in the last game of camp. Due to his inexperience, the Phillies held him back in extended Spring Training for the first two months of 2003, in order to "let him get the teaching he would receive at a summer league," according to Mike Arbuckle, the Phillies' assistant general manager and director of player development.