What Became of Cole Hamels, the Phils’ One 'Sure Thing' Entering 2013?

What Became of Cole Hamels, the Phils’ One 'Sure Thing' Entering 2013?

Of all the reasons Negadelphia could have thought up before the season began to explain why the Phillies would be under .500 five days into the month of June, somewhere near the bottom is Cole Hamels. If his name was there at all, it no doubt would have appeared next to the word “injury” or some variation of it.

Hamels is not hurt (that we know of). His contract situation was settled almost a year ago. At 29, Cole’s best baseball should still be ahead of him. Yet despite the seeming lack of obvious physical ailments and mental distractions, he is very much a part of the problem so far.

In fact, Hamels is tied with Joe Blanton for the most losses among all pitchers in Major League Baseball with nine entering Wednesday – already as many as he recorded in all in 2011, and more than in 2012. Equally as troubling are the club’s losses in his no decisions, bringing the Phillies to 1-11 in their ace’s starts this season.

And while we can all agree wins and losses aren’t always very good indicators of a pitcher’s performance – see Cliff Lee last year – this is well beyond that. Hamels’ 4.86 earned run average is 42nd out of 54 qualifying starters in the National League, which pairs well with ranking in the bottom 12 in hits, runs, home runs, and walks surrendered.

The difficult truth is those numbers don’t quite tell the whole story either. Hamels has given up fewer than three runs in half of his 12 outings, and no more than that in two others, so it’s safe to say the Fightins ought to have pulled a few more of those contests out.

Lack of run support notwithstanding, Cole hasn’t exactly been sharp. He was absolutely rocked in four of his outings, and even the "quality starts" are not what we’ve come to expect. Coming into Wednesday’s duel with the Marlins, Hamels hasn’t gone deeper than 6.1 innings since May 4, and only three times on the year at that.

It’s no secret his command has been the chief concern since Opening Day. He’s walked four or more batters three times already, which is completely uncharacteristic for Hamels at the big league level. Look at his 2013 WHIP of 1.338 and 2.64 strikeout-to-walk ratio and compare it to his career numbers of 1.148 and 3.72. Both of them are way off of his normal pace.

Unfortunately we don’t really have any highly specific answers as to why. The best you can hope for is it’s a mechanical thing the pitcher can correct sooner rather than later. Maybe Domonic Brown and a bunch of other guys suddenly slugging the ball out of the yard on his day to throw would help Cole regain some confidence as well.

Frankly, in some other situation we could simply chalk it up to a bad stretch or even a tough season for Hamels.

The problem with that is if he was doing what was anticipated – that arguably being a contender for the Cy Young – the Phillies would be right in the thick of the playoff race right now, if not holding down a berth. Philadelphia is 7.5 games back of Atlanta for first place in the NL East, instead of the few back that might be with a few more wins from their No. 1. They’re only six out of a Wild Card spot, which was easily doable with more run support…

Or a few more performances where Hamels either went longer or was the shutdown ace his contract demands he be.

The frustrating part is Hamels will most likely come around barring injury because there’s too much talent. And again, where the Phillies are in the standings is far from all his fault – he’s deserved to win far more often than he has.

Just imagine though if he had been pitching like the Cole Hamels of the last two years this entire time instead. Now couple that thought with how Domonic Brown has suddenly ignited and is carrying the Phils’ offense, not to mention the fact that the Braves and Nationals have left the division wide open for the taking.

The Phillies should be right there. Forget Ryan Howard’s waning power, Chase Utley’s injury, Carlos Ruiz’s absences, the slow starts of Ben Revere and Jimmy Rollins, and the all-too-often-missing right-hand bats of Michael and Delmon Young. To a certain extent, all of that had been accounted for.

Hamels was supposed to help combat those flaws. Without his quick turnaround, they will prove as fatal as predicted.

Awwwwe: Chooch leaves his Phillies teammates a love note on clubhouse chalk board

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Awwwwe: Chooch leaves his Phillies teammates a love note on clubhouse chalk board

As if you didn't think you could love Carlos Ruiz any more...

Chooch was traded on Thursday afternoon and he's since departed for the potentially playoff-bound pastures with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But not before he left his Phillies teammates a loving note in the clubhouse.

Courtesy of Phillies beat reporter Jim Salisbury.

It reads:

"I will miss all of you guys. Good luck the rest of the season. Love you all, Chooch! (Gracias)"

Awwwwwwwwe.

NHL Notes: Brandon Pirri, Rangers agree to terms on one-year deal

NHL Notes: Brandon Pirri, Rangers agree to terms on one-year deal

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have agreed to terms with forward Brandon Pirri on a $1.1 million, one-year deal.

The 25-year-old Pirri spent last season with the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks, recording 14 goals and 15 assists in 61 games. His 29 points were a career high.

A second-round pick, 59th overall, in the 2009 draft, Pirri has been traded twice and was considered a potential bargain in NHL free agency. Pirri is something of a shootout specialist, scoring on five of his six attempts last season, and that 83.3 percent success rate ranked first among players with at least five attempts.

In 166 NHL games with the Chicago Blackhawks, Panthers and Ducks, Pirri has 49 goals and 31 assists for 90 points.

Enroth replaces injured Lerner for Sweden at World Cup
NEW YORK -- With goaltender Robin Lehner still not fully healthy, Sweden replaced him on its World Cup of Hockey roster with Jhonas Enroth.

The Buffalo Sabres' starting goalie was bothered by a right ankle injury for much of last season that limited him to 21 NHL games. Lehner underwent surgery in March and had been working to get ready for the World Cup, which begins Sept. 17 in Toronto.

"We really wanted to give Robin the opportunity to recover from his injury from last year, but unfortunately it wasn't enough time for him to feel 100 percent recovered," coach Rikard Gronborg said in a statement released by the Swedish Ice Hockey Association.

Concussion problems held Lehner to 23 games in 2014-15, and he looked to be over those after the Ottawa Senators traded him to Buffalo at the 2015 draft. The 25-year-old injured his ankle early in the season opener and aggravated it in March.

It was not immediately clear when the Sabres expect Lehner to be back to 100 percent.

"As Robin continues to progress during the offseason in his rehab from last season's ankle injury, he felt that it was best to withdraw from Team Sweden for the upcoming World Cup," Buffalo general manager Tim Murray said in a statement. "Robin felt it was important to continue his rehab in Buffalo to prepare for training camp. He has been working out both on and off the ice and we look forward to seeing him on the ice with our team next month."

Enroth, who spent last season with the Los Angeles Kings, recently signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He joins Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks as the goalies on Sweden's roster.

The 28-year-old has a 2.80 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 147 career NHL games. Enroth was on the Swedish team that earned a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, though he never appeared in a game. He started for Sweden at the 2013 and 2015 world hockey championships, winning gold in 2013 with a 1.15 GAA and .956 save percentage (see full story).

Is Eagles' Carson Wentz the 'holy grail' of modern NFL QB prospects?

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Is Eagles' Carson Wentz the 'holy grail' of modern NFL QB prospects?

The NFL is constantly evolving, but pro offenses, their very design, and the types of athletes who can run those offenses are changing, rapidly beyond recognition.

That is precisely one of the reasons behind the Eagles' bold decision to trade three years worth of draft picks in April for the opportunity to get Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State. Because Wentz didn't represent merely another quarterback prospect coming out of college — some feel as though this 23-year-old kid might be the future of the position in the NFL.

Don't take my word for it. Take that of Brad Childress, former Eagles offensive coordinator who eventually wound up following long-time head coach Andy Reid to Kansas City. It's there where Childress was tasked with a unique role: "spread game analyst."

For more on that, what the spread offense is and how its prevalence in the college game is altering the landscape of the NFL, you'll have to read Kevin Clark's piece over at The Ringer. Trust us, it's worth it. Long-time Eagles executive Joe Banner hails the piece as, "One of the best, smartest, most correct articles I have read in a long time," and it's hard to argue. Chances are you'll learn something.

But for our purposes, the aspect of the piece we'll focus on is how the growth of the spread offense is tied to the selection of Wentz. NFL coaches like Childress or front-office types such as Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman see in Wentz a rare hybrid of the the spread and pro-style quarterback, which as it turns out, may be ideally suited to succeed in a league that increasingly uses both types of offense.

Childress, meanwhile, believes the current holy grail is the prospect who ran spread plays at the college level that can be easily imported to the pro level. He mentioned Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who at North Dakota State played in a multiple-style offense that incorporated spread concepts. Childress was impressed that Wentz played under center sometimes and in the shotgun at other times, and that regardless of the formation, he was adept at making various throws. He said some of the sweep plays Wentz ran were particularly impressive, and that he wants to incorporate what he saw into the Chiefs’ game plan.

Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman, who took Wentz second overall in the draft, called his college system “a pro-style concept that hints at where the sport is going.” Roseman, like Spielman, said that changes in the college game have forced him to alter how he evaluates passers: Because the college game is so different from the NFL game, Roseman is forced to put less emphasis on tape and more emphasis on test scores and smarts.

It's an extremely interesting perspective. It also jives with another line of thinking many believe led the Eagles to jump all over Wentz: There may not be another college signal-caller with this type of makeup to come around for a long time, as more and more programs go to entirely spread-based systems.

Yes, concepts of the spread have made their way to the NFL, and they're likely there to stay. However, whether it will become an offense that's fully embraced around the league is a bit trickier, which is why it's probably best to have somebody who can do it all. That partially explains why Wentz became so attractive to the Eagles.

It's also not at all surprising that Childress, Reid, Roseman and current Eagles coach Doug Pederson would all share similar mindsets on the direction the NFL is headed. There are too many ties here for it to be purely a coincidence, and Clark's piece about the spread offense would seem to shed some light on some of the back story about how Wentz became an Eagle.