Hamels has been the NL's most durable ace

Hamels has been the NL's most durable ace

Phillies Nation: Grading the pitching staff

September 26, 2013, 2:15 pm
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Cole Hamels is one of three NL pitchers to make at least 31 starts in six straight seasons. (USA Today Images)

Financially, Cole Hamels has been rewarded for his accomplishments on the field. He’s the highest-paid player in Phillies history.

But in terms of credit, both locally and nationally, Hamels doesn’t get enough for his durability.

Hamels’ season ended Wednesday night in Miami with a six-inning, two-run, no decision. It was his 33rd start of the year.

This was the sixth straight season Hamels made at least 31 starts. The only other NL pitchers with active streaks that long are Bronson Arroyo and Tim Lincecum.

It was Hamels’ 193rd start since 2008. The only two pitchers in all of baseball with that many starts over the last six seasons and an ERA lower than Hamels’ 3.30 are Felix Hernandez (2.93) and Matt Cain (3.22).

Wednesday’s game was also the 64th straight time Hamels pitched at least five innings. He’s tied with Clayton Kershaw for the longest such streak in the majors. After those two, the next-longest steaks belong to Yu Darvish (51) and Cliff Lee (47).

Slice it any you want, Hamels was remarkably consistent and healthy for the duration of the Phillies’ five-year run, as well as their two-year fall from grace.

“I’m pretty proud of myself that I stayed healthy and made all of my starts,” Hamels told reporters after Wednesday's loss in Miami. “I know I got bumped back a few days in the middle of the season, but I went out there and gave it all I had.”

Hamels’ shaky 2009 skews his numbers a bit. If you make 2010-13 the cutoff point, his numbers are even more impressive. Hamels pitched exactly 860 innings over those four years.

The only four pitchers in baseball to throw that many innings from 2010-13 and have a lower ERA than Hamels are Kershaw, Lee, Hernandez and Justin Verlander -- four men who have a combined four (soon to be five) Cy Young awards and one MVP. Hamels has a World Series MVP, but has never finished higher than fifth in Cy Young voting.

Hamels’ 2013 season was a bit disappointing, mostly because he got off to such a slow start. But his 8-14 record and 3.60 ERA don’t tell the whole story. After his first two starts his ERA was 3.22. And you can completely throw out the win-loss record, because he was given the fourth-worst run support in the NL. The Phillies averaged 3.52 runs while Hamels was in the game. It’s pretty surprising Hamels won even eight games with that kind of “support.”

Hamels’ strong pitching over the season’s final four months should give the Phillies hope for the future, and should justify the $144 million contract they gave him. He’s one of the best and most reliable pitchers in baseball. In the NL, only Matt Harvey and Francisco Liriano induced more swings-and-misses. Nobody had more swinging strikeouts. Only Adam Wainwright threw more strikes.

It was one heck of a season for Hamels. You just have to look at the facets of the game he can control.

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