Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Booing of Cole Hamels

The Phillies were riding high after sweeping the Astros over the opening weekend of the season.  The big three had done their jobs, and the fourth pitcher of the "Four Aces" was given the job to keep the streak going.  The 450 million dollar IOU Mets came to town and the Phil's seemed ready to make an early season statement to silence the nay sayers.  The youngest and least experianced of the Phillies starting pitchers, Cole Hamels is the one with the World Series ring and MVP to boot.  He has earned his spot to pitch along side the other three and he was the sexy pick for the NL CY Young award.

Hamels had a rough spring at times, and he looked unhittable during others.  Hamels has two solid pitches and a so-so third.  His number one pitch is a circle changeup that looks the same coming out of his hand as his second pitch, his fastball.  His third pitch, a curveball, he rarely ever throws.  When Hamels can spot his fastball he becomes unhittable because his circle change will fool any hitter looking for a fastball.  The problem Hamels has is the hitter only has to guess on two pitches and if he can't spot his fastball, batters will sit on his changeup. 

Hamels is a career low 90's fastball guy, averaging somewhere in the neighborhood of 91-92.  I am not sure if he was amped up because it was his first start of the season or if it was due to the Met's being in town, but early on his fastball was 95.  For Hamels that is usually a good sign, it means he has confidence in it and he feels as though he can spot it.  After the first two runners got on and stole 3rd and 2nd Hamels calmed down, he worked out of the jam getting the next three batters and leaving the two leadoff Met's runnners on the bags.  After that the thought was Hamels had settled down and things would be just fine from there...until they weren't.

Hamels ended his night with 2.2 innings pitched, allowing 7 hits and 6 runs, all earned.  That performence now equals a 20.25 era and an 0-1 record.  Hamels had failed to deliver what his other three colleagues had, a win.  He fell back into the Hamels of old and as soon as things went wrong, it all went wrong mentally for him. 

As Hamels left the game he was booed by the 127th straight sellout crowd and rightfully so.  The Philly crowd expects the best and when it is not delivered they are not happy.  As much as Hamels was booed when he left the game, he was cheered at the same level if not more when the game began and he worked out of the 1st inning jam.  Is there a question of likability about Cole Hamels amongst Phillies fans? Yes.  He's a Southern California kid, with a high pitched voice and a past spotted with refusing to pitch on less than 5 days rest and wishing the season was over during a playoff run.  Where as Halladay, Lee and Oswalt and even Blanton for that matter, are viewed as work horses, Hamels is't.  His likability had nothing to do with being booed last night; his performance was the only reason. 

In Hamels defense his numbers speak for themselves.  I mentioned the World Series ring and MVP of 2008, but Hamels also was the Phillies second arm in the rotation last season.  He went 12-10 with a 3.06 era, but he had the 5th worst run support in baseball and should have won 18-20 games.  He is a much better pitcher then he displayed last night and although Philly fans booed, there is no need to say Hamels season is done or he doesn't have it.  Every pitcher in baseball will have a bad day; Hamels just had one early and it just so happened to be after a three game sweep and against the hated Mets. 
Will he get cheered next time out at home?  Absolutely.

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