Posts Tagged ‘Cole Hamels’

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The point of a good countdown is to both acknowledge achievement of those featured in it, while also provoking some good debate on how it is ordered. Sometimes this can even create some suspense on the way towards the conclusion, during that wait to see if it works out like it “should” in the end.

Well, I’ve got a bit of bad news—this is not one of those times. If you’ve been following baseball even loosely over the past few years, there’s no question about who the best left-hander (or pitcher at all) is right now, that’s a done deal. There is no great challenge in figuring that out, however that is only half the story, because there is a phenomenal set of southpaws around the Majors right now.

In fact, it is a group so good that even a 17-game winner from just last year couldn’t crack the list, and that’s saying something. So, enjoy the countdown to #2, because it is both a very close call…and well as a testament to how great #1 is, already.

10. Francisco Liriano, Pirates: One of the most fascinating things to watch last summer was how Liriano reinvented himself from washed up power hurler to crafty and precise out machine. Using his slider primarily, he allowed 31% of his runs on the year in only two of his 26 starts and had a 2.14 ERA in the other 24.

9. CC Sabathia, Yankees: It’s easy to say that CC is on the verge of being washed up and that the innings have finally taken their toll, but he’s a gamer that’s never failed to reach double digit wins and will show up to camp as what looks to be 30-40 pounds lighter for the rebuilt Yanks. Something tells me that 2013 will be the aberration over the rule.

8. Jon Lester, Red Sox: He would have been the World Series MVP on any other, non-Ortiz team, winning two games in the Fall Classic, and had an impressive 4-1 postseason record. On the year, he topped 15 wins for the fifth time in six years.

7. Gio Gonzalez, Nationals: He didn’t turn in another 21-win effort for the sulking Nats, but Gonzalez was still turned in over 190 strikeouts for the third straight year and is primed to be a big part of a 2014 turnaround that started late in DC last fall.

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6. Cole Hamels, Phillies: He seemed to be cursed to just not be able to pull out a win for most of last year, but pitched better than his 14 losses would lead one to believe. Otherwise, his final effort stays close to the level that is accustomed of him, topping both 200 strikeouts and innings, while keeping his ERA at a solid 3.60.

5. Madison Bumgarner, Giants: One of the most underrated, but consistently superb hurlers in the game. He has risen to the top of the Giants staff at just age 24, and has already won 50 games and topped 200 innings each of the last three years, while posting a career-low 2.77 ERA in 2013.

4. Chris Sale, White Sox: He proved his 2012 was no fluke, has he turned in yet an even more impressive effort in his sophomore starting season, despite a decrease in wins on a much worse club. His 226 strikeout were third best in the AL, and the soon-to-be 25 year old hasn’t approached his ceiling yet.

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3. David Price, Rays: He had a slow start coming off his Cy Young 2012 effort, due to a triceps injury that sidelined him to the disabled list for the first time. But he returned to his regular form in the second half, going 7-3 with a 2.87 ERA, and winning a gutsy tie-breaker playoff start to push Tampa into the playoffs.

2. Cliff Lee, Phillies: The game’s preeminent control artist was is back at his old tricks. Over the past two seasons, he has struck out 429 batters, while walking only 60 in return. Over that span, he has not pitched less than 211 innings in a season and won 37 games.

1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: Like I said, there’s no drama here—he’s the best pitcher in the world regardless of arm. A winner of two of the last three NL Cy Young Awards (and had a very strong case for the one he finished runner-up for), he’s as dominant of a 25 year old as there has been since Roger Clemens.  Over his past near-700 innings pitched, his ERA is a miniscule 2.21, a stretch that he has won three consecutive ERA titles, including an insane 1.83 a summer ago. Kershaw is $30 million per year well spent.

Just A Bit Outside: C.J. Wilson, Matt Moore, Patrick Corbin

For more in real-time about this and the rest of the Top 10’s across the board, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

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The Perfect Storm of Cole Hamels

Posted: July 25, 2012 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
Tags: , ,

The Philadelphia Phillies had to make a decision, an impossible one. Either let Cole Hamels walk or pay the price to keep the anchor for the future of their club in tow. The price was going to be steep because Hamels has a mixture of everything that you could ask for from a free agent to be on his side: age (28 years old), results and the name your own price combination of being a left-hander in his prime.

Yet the challenge for the Phillies discussed for the better part of a year was how can they afford to give Hamels what he’d demand? With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard already pulling in over $20 million per season, could they realistically give another deal like that out as well? Well, with the trade deadline bearing down and nearly every team with a glimmer of hope checking on what it would take to get Hamels on their side, the Phillies decided that it was better keep him than ship him, and decided to let history have its place.

Early on Wednesday morning a six-year, $144 million deal with his name on it was finished. Now that may seem like a lot for a guy that has never won more than 15 games in a season and been slid down the rotation with each acquisition the club has made the last few years, and the inevitable “is he worth it” debates have some legitimacy. Is Hamels the best pitcher in the game? Absolutely not. Is he even the best pitcher on his own staff? That’s highly debatable as well. But all of those points are irrelevant, because he had the almighty combination of potential, age and current status on his side to steer his future earnings.

But of the debating on what his results-to-check deal stop here: no player in history, outside of maybe Alex Rodriguez, has had better timing and cashed in on opportunity more than Hamels. The Phillies are in an impossible position of carrying high expectations, and not being out of the race. With Halladay, Howard and Cole Hamels all back and playing together for the first time since last year, they’ve put together their best stretch of the year over the last week with the trade deadline just a week away. How could they possibly get rid of the steadiest pitcher of the year while they are clawing out of the grave?

In the midst of all of this, all Hamels had to do was keep showing up for work every day, because his stock improved itself without him even throwing a pitch. Momentum plus timing plus securing the future of the franchise did all the work for him, and he received the biggest perfect storm deal of all-time. Now he has his deal and the Phillies have the best young arm on their team locked up for the remainder of his career.

The precedent set by the deal is staggering, and how it affects the rest of the team remains to be seen. Before last year, there had never been more than one $20 million pitcher in one rotation, now there are three in Philly. When all of the hype in the collection of pitchers that team is built around is removed, it comes down to stark reality of how much it is their responsibility to see to it this team wins. Will the organization have the finances to improve an aging and injury-prone offense now around their arms? There are a lot of tough-to-impossible to move contracts on the roster now, so this roster is going to have to do it the way it is now. But this is one situation where money really wasn’t an option, because it couldn’t be.

Isn’t it great when a plan comes together? Now let’s see where that plan lands the Phillies this season, and the rest of the team around their $60 million rotation going forward.

For more on the rest of the trade deadline deals, and me running into the slightly less than Hamels, multi-thousand dollar deal I inked to go to work each day, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

Last week, I started bringing the baseball season with the first section of the top 100 MLB players. Since the first part of the list dropped, pitchers and catchers have started to drop into camps down in Florida & Arizona. Also, keeping with the theme of the offseason, the unexpected has continued to rule as the Oakland Athletics pulled the upset and signed a big name, big money international free agent.

I’m sure that the next 25 players below will continue that theme as well. There were already a few claims of “There’s no way he’s that low!”, as well as a few “Overrated” calls that have started up, and now the gripe is sure to get a bit deeper. It has no choice but to when below there is a former Cy Young winner, a World Series MVP, Rookie of the Year, owner of a 30 game hit streak and the youngest hits king ever, all before I even crack the top 50.

So with no more delay, and no more intro intrigue, here are the 75th through 51st best players in baseball today.

75. Dan Uggla, Braves: Is feast WHILE famine possible? Well Uggla, who knocked out 30 homers for the 5th straight year last summer (the only second baseman to ever have 30 or more in three seasons), would know. He built up a 33-game hitting streak last summer….but didn’t hit .200 during the duration of it.

 

74. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers: When he finished with 207 strikeouts last summer, he hit the mile marker for the third time before his 25th birthday, becoming only the third pitcher to achieve this in the last 25 years.

73. Carlos Santana, Indians: His tear through the AL his rookie year in 2010 ended when he tore his ACL, but he still didn’t miss a step. He hit 27 home runs in his first complete season, the type of numbers that will make his move from catcher to first base this year seem natural.

72. Alex Avila, Tigers: Speaking of backstops swinging big sticks, Avila took a huge step into the forefront a year ago, hitting .295. With his 2010 mate in catching Victor Martinez out for this summer, another campaign like the breakout he came off of.

71. Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks: He’s the run-producing heart of baseball’s fastest risers in Phoenix. A complete bat with 30 double power & a strong arm in the field, he’s the field general for a very talented young pitching staff with arms like…

70. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks: …the most surprising 20-game winner in the game a year ago. He epitomized the spirit of Arizona club that took down the World Champs and pulled a last-to-first turnaround: 2010 (in 32 starts) 9-10, 3.80 ERA. One year later (in 33 starts) 21-4, 2.80 ERA.

69. Paul Konerko, White Sox: He doesn’t age does he? Either that or he’s drinking that water Ponce De Leon found. Regardless of how his method, Konerko keeps swatting, and at 36 he’s coming off yet another 30 homer/100 RBI year.

Since turning 30, Konerko's hit at least his age in homers four out of six seasons.

68. Shane Victorino, Phillies: In the middle of a star studded Phillies club, he may be the most balanced overall threat they have. There aren’t too many switch hitting, Gold Glove holding, 30 base stealing, double digit triple totaling, All-Star players on any team.

67. Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians: The Indians surprised the baseball world prying the sensational Jimenez out of the Rockies last summer. They paid a high price, but got a dynamic talent back: He threw 1,342 pitches OVER 95 mph, and his 97 mph average is the hardest average in the game.

66. Jose Valverde, Tigers: It was dramatic at times, but results are results. The uber-eccentric Valverde took the ball in 49 save situations and saved 49 games for the Tigers last year. He brings a 51 game streak into 2012.

65. CJ Wilson, Angels: The Angels paid a big price to lure him from the rival Rangers, but they got one of the toughest lefties in the game. In just his second full year starting, Wilson won 16 games and ERA below 3.00. His game is rising right along with his income.

64. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: It’s a bit hidden because he’s showcasing his talents in the longtime baseball Siberia of Pittsburgh, but McCutchen is one of the most dynamic talents in the game, at only 25. Last year, he top 20 homers & 20 steals and the number in front of those zeros could get much higher.

If he didn't spend most of his time in Pittsburgh's outfield, McCutchen's talents would be much better known.

63. Nelson Cruz, Rangers: Nobody has better long ball timing than Nelson. Just last year he became the first player to hit a walk off grand slam in a postseason game. Then two games later, he hit another game winning shot to become the first player to ever hit two game winning, extra inning homers in the same postseason series.

62. Starlin Castro, Cubs: There’s hasn’t been a whole to get excited about around North Chicago baseball recently, outside of their 21 year old shortstop. He’s kicked his career off with a tool set similar to a young Derek Jeter, and led the NL in hits a year ago with 207; becoming youngest hits king in MLB history.

61. Ben Zobrist, Rays: If intangibles had another name, it would probably be Zobrist. Tampa’s ultimate weapon can take a glove to any position, and few players do more to push their team to the next level. Last May, he turned in a 10 RBI double header performance.

60. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: The Massachusetts on-base machine had his year ended early, but a return back to even part of his usual form makes him one of the most dangerous bats in the game. His 3 year average from 2008-10: .308, 25 homers & 90 RBI, with a robust .404 on-base percentage.

59. Dan Haren, Angels: A workhorse, definitely not the quarter variety. Haren simply throws quality inning on top of quality inning, and when he’s right, there’s little that can be done. He went over 30 starts and 200 innings for the 7th consecutive year in 2011 and tossed a career high three shutouts.

58. Neftali Feliz, Rangers: It looks like he’ll take his dominant stuff to starting games instead of finishing them in 2012. Not that that status quo was a problem; in his first two seasons he saved 74 games with him high 100 mph fastball/low 90’s slider mix.

More than one inning of Feliz per game may have to be investigated as cheating. Seriously.

57. Tim Hudson, Braves: He’s frustrated batters into 33 wins games the last two years, and it’s really no surprise. Wins are what he’s all about: he’s only once not won at least 60% of his games in a season.

56. Elvis Andrus, Rangers: Watch enough Rangers games and you’ll realize that anything not hit straight down the first base line could potentially be Andrus’ property. That same speed he uses to steal hits also gets him over 30 base thefts annually as well.

55. Zack Greinke, Brewers: Zack locked the gates of Miller Park in his debut year in the National League, going 11-0 at home. Overall, he won 72% of his starts, and despite missing the first month of the year, he struck out 200 batters as well. This full year he’s about to get could be scary.

54. Lance Berkman, Cardinals: Please, don’t call it a comeback. The Big Puma finished in the top 10 in the NL in virtually every category that matters after nearly not even getting an invite to join a team headed into the season and having to fit into the outfield. His reward this year: getting to change positions again…and replace Albert Pujols.

53. Craig Kimbrel, Braves: He made being a “rookie” look like a mere formality, because his year one reset the record books. His 46 saves destroyed the former NL rookie record by 10 & passed the MLB mark by six. If this wasn’t enough, he struck out 127 batters in just 77 innings and set the consecutive scoreless innings mark for the season too.

In one season, Kimbrel dominated to the point of making a legit claim to best closer in the game.

52. David Price, Rays: 41 wins & two All-Star games in three seasons of starting don’t tell the full story of Price. His repertoire is so devastating that he often doesn’t even need to change speeds, because often…it’s really not necessary. He cracked 200 strikeouts for the first time last year, and he’s just getting a hold on this starter thing.

51. Cole Hamels, Phillies: There’s not a better third best starter on any team than Hamels is on the Phillies, because really, there aren’t many 1’s or 2’s better on most other squads. An artist on the mound, moving the ball in and out, he averaged less than one base runner per inning last year.

 

For more debate as the bottom 50 wraps up and moves into the Top 50 best ballplayers in the world, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatfan.