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.

Temple at No. 19 Navy: Owls go for first AAC title

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Temple at No. 19 Navy: Owls go for first AAC title

Temple (9-3) at No. 19 Navy (9-2)
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
Saturday, noon, ABC

It would have been hard to picture Temple in the American Athletic Conference championship game after the Owls’ first game of the season, a 28-13 loss to Army.

But that’s exactly where they are three months later, as Temple will take on No. 19 Navy in the conference championship game Saturday.

The Owls and Midshipmen have both been handling opponents as of late. Temple’s won its last four games by at least three touchdowns, while Navy has outscored opponents 141-62 in its past two games.

Let’s take a look at how one of the country’s top offenses and one of the country’s top defenses match up.

Scouting Temple
The Owls' defense seems to get better every week. Temple ranks No. 3 in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total defense and No. 10 in scoring defense. The only two teams that rank higher than the Owls in both categories are Alabama and Michigan.

Teams haven’t scored more than 13 points against the Owls in their last four games, and Temple is outscoring opponents 123-23 during that stretch.

Redshirt-senior defensive lineman Haason Reddick was named a first team all-conference selection earlier this week. He leads the FBS in tackles for loss. Redshirt-senior Praise Martin-Oguike is coming off one of his best games of the season last week against East Carolina, in which he had two sacks, including a forced fumble. He has seven sacks this season.

On offense, Temple’s goal this week will be to sustain drives and keep Navy’s offense off the field. The Owls are currently No. 5 in the FBS in time of possession, holding the ball for more than 34 minutes per game.

Earlier in the week, coach Matt Rhule said senior quarterback Phillip Walker was questionable for Saturday’s game. Walker will likely play, but the Owls might be without one of their top offensive weapons.

Rhule said sophomore running back Ryquell Armstead is doubtful. Armstead has 842 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.

Scouting Navy
The Midshipmen have one of the simplest — yet at that same time one of the best — offenses in the country. Navy ranks No. 2 in rushing yards at 342 yards per game.

Quarterback Will Worth runs the triple option for Navy. He has 2,544 total yards of offense and 33 total touchdowns. He’s passed for 1,363 yards and rushed for 1,181 more.  Worth has a touchdown in 11 straight games.

Worth has attempted 258 rushes compared to 115 passing attempts. Four other Navy players have at least 40 rushing attempts this season.

Senior wide receiver Jamir Tillman is the Midshipmen’s best receiving threat. The 6-foot-4 wideout has 32 catches for 533 yards and two touchdowns.

Navy’s defense hasn’t been quite as elite as its offense. The Midshipmen have allowed 30 or more points in four of their last five games.

The Midshipmen are allowing 265 passing yards per game. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged 313 yards and three touchdowns in their last three contests.

Storyline to watch: Can Temple find a way to stop the triple option?
The last time these two teams played was in 2014, when Navy ran for 487 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-24 win against the Owls at Lincoln Financial Field. Temple’s most recent matchup against the triple option was when it lost to Army in its season opener. The Black Knights ran for 329 yards and four touchdowns. With only a week to prepare, Temple will have to find a way to cure its option woes if it wants a chance to win Saturday.

What’s at stake?
The Owls have only won one other conference championship in program history, when they won the Mid-Atlantic Conference in 1967. A win would also give Temple its third 10-win season in program history. If Western Michigan loses Friday night, Temple also puts itself in contention for a spot in the Cotton Bowl with a win.

Prediction
Temple has to figure out this option thing at some point, right? The Owls’ ability to convert on third down and sustain long drives will help slow Navy's offense. This one will most likely come down to who has the ball last, but the Owls are a little bit more well-rounded, so they get the edge. Temple 31, Navy 28