Chicago Cubs: Jason Hammel quietly emerging as a staff ace


During the first-half of the 2014 season, Chicago Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel was a bright spot in the team’s starting rotation. Following a mid-season trade to Oakland, the veteran took a step backwards in several regards, leaving many to believe his time on the North Side to be nothing more than a fluke.

However, 10 starts into the 2015 campaign, Hammel has been even better than he was a year ago–which is saying quite a lot. He currently boasts a 2.82 earned run average and is coming off a start against the Miami Marlins in which he notched a career-high 11 strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

With the win, Chicago gained a game in the standings on the first-place St. Louis Cardinals, who fell to the Milwaukee Brewers by a 1-0 final.  For Hammel, though, it marked his seventh quality start of the year, which is tied with ace left-hander Jon Lester for the team-lead.

In his last two starts, he’s combined to strike out 20 batters, the most he’s whiffed in a two-game stretch since June 2012, when he tallied 18 strikeouts as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.

As the temperatures warmed, so has Hammel’s performance. That being said, he showed exactly what makes him so successful early-on. Should anyone need to figure out what makes him so dangerous, look no further than his 23-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the month of April.

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On the season, the right-hander has a 9.86 K/BB ratio, which trails only Bartolo Colon of the New York Mets (10.80) in the National League and just Colon and Michael Pineda (10.86) in all of Major League Baseball.

There’s been little difference to Hammel between Wrigley Field and opposing ballparks, which is a promising sign for the Cubs moving forward. While three of his four wins have come away from the Friendly Confines, his earned run average is half-a-run better at home this year.

Opposing hitters are batting just .215 against the Chicago right-hander this season, who has punched out 69 batters in just 67 innings of work, while walking just seven. After his dominant outing against Miami, Hammel attributed his success this season to what seems like obvious occurrences.

"“When I’m missing, my misses are better,” Hammel told the Chicago Tribune. “That’s about it. When I’ve made my mistakes this year, it hasn’t hurt me.”"

One thing is abundantly clear 10 starts into the 2015 season. His first-half dominance from last year under Chicago pitching coach Chris Bosio is no fluke and behind Lester and fellow right-hander Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel has all the makings of a front-line starter in the Cubs rotation for years to come.

Next: Jason Hammel, Cubs top Miami Marlins 5-1