Home Cooking The Best For Hamels

By Ted Cahill

Cole Hamels is not the same pitcher that led Philadelphia to their second World Series championship last season.

There are various reasons why the left-hander has regressed (overwork last year, increased pressure), but they’re not nearly as interesting as his home-road splits this year.

Overall, the Phillies’ ace is 4-5 with a 4.98 ERA and 77 strikeouts. He’s also thrown 85 innings this year, putting him on pace to finish below his 2007 total of 183 1/3, not to mention last year’s astronomical numbers, when you include the postseason.

But pitching in Citizens Bank Park, Hamels is actually pitching better then when he gets away from the bandbox. In eight home starts, opponents are hitting .276 and the left-hander has struck out 53 in 46 2/3 innings. He has a 2-2 record with a 3.86 ERA.

On the road, it’s a different story. The 25-year old has a 6.34 ERA and opponents are hitting .352 off him. Even their slugging numbers are up significantly, from .448 to .537. He does have a shutout on the road, and when that masterpiece against the Dodgers is taken away, the numbers just get awful.

Hamels is far from the normal Phillies pitcher. The team’s splits are more what you would expect from a team with a losing record at home. On the road the staff’s ERA drops from 5.03 to 4.41 and their WHIP falls from 1.527 to 1.384.
So what’s wrong with Hamels?

This has actually been going on throughout his career; it really is just noticeable for the first time because he has been so much of a disappointment this year. He just seems to be more comfortable at home, even if the park is a disadvantage.

He’s also pitched in some terrible stadiums on the road this year, including Great American Ballpark, Yankee Stadium and Coors Field.

The splits may get better as the season goes on, but Hamels is not an elite pitcher this season. The good news is that before this year, his career first half ERA was 3.71, a number that falls to 3.08 in the second half.

Run of the Mill: Kevin Millwood doesn’t seem to have much luck with the All-Star game. Despite winning the AL ERA title in 2005, he was shutout of the game and this year he’ll be sitting at home with the league’s fifth best ERA.

Millwood may not have All-Star luck, but he has been lucky this year. His BABIP numbers have been exceptional in the first half, 50 points below the league average for both groundballs and fly balls. His .057 BABIP on fly balls is probably the most concerning, since as the weather heats up in Texas the ball tends to fly out of the Ballpark at Arlington at a much higher pace.

I’m not the biggest believer in classifying pitchers as “lucky”, because if you’re going to be in the running for an ERA title or a Cy Young award there is a ton of luck involved. But even when Millwood had an ERA of 2.86 in Cleveland, his BABIP was higher. There may be a bit of a correction coming for Millwood, but there are plenty of experts that have been warning of this all year. You shouldn’t be concerned as long as Millwood isn’t your frontline starter.

Pedro returning: Various reports have Pedro Martinez saying he wants to sign a contract this week, probably placing him on track to pitch after the All-Star break. Where he might be signing is still very much up in the air, though Tampa Bay and Philadelphia have been rumored to be interested. Fantasy owners should not be, at least not right away. There are much better pitchers available than a 37-year old who hasn’t played since the World Baseball Classic. His last four starts for the Mets last year were disastrous. The Dominican went 0-3 with a 7.77 ERA. Remember there are better options at this point of the season.

Pitcher pickup of the week: Glen Perkins, Twins
Since returning from the disabled list, Perkins has been great for Minnesota. Like most sinker ballers he’s not a strikeout pitcher, but he picks up wins. Since his trip to the DL, Perkins is 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA in four starts. He’s only struck out nine, but his WHIP of 1.19 makes up for that. This week he starts against the Yankees on Wednesday, but he gets to face the very tough lineup at home, where he has a 3.72 ERA this season. Perkins was roughed up by the Yankees in his final start before being placed on the DL, but he lasted only 2/3 of an inning before leaving with his injury.