Chicago Cubs Gradeout: Jason Hammel’s return revealed consistency issues


SP. Chicago Cubs. JASON HAMMEL. B. 31 GS, 170.2 IP, 79 R, 71 ER, 1.16 WHIP, 172/40 K/BB, 10-7, 3.74 ERA

Last July, the Chicago Cubs went to work with Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics on a trade that would include Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.

Once a deal was finalized, the Cubs received prospects Addison Russell and Billy McKinney in exchange for both veterans. Just a year later, Russell made his big league debut with both pitcher’s back in Chicago.

The man named ‘The Shark’ found a new home on the South Side of Chicago, while Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer inked Hammel to a two-year deal worth $20 million.

It made sense to give him another shot considering how well he pitched for the Cubs before he was traded and gave this club a solid No. 3 starter.

Placing him behind southpaw Jon Lester and right-hander Jake Arrieta made this rotation look like it was going to take the rest of the league by storm, but that’s not how it played out this year.

Sure, Lester had issues settling in with a National League team and a key weakness of his was exposed in his first outing with the Cubs against the St. Louis Cardinals on Opening Night.

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Hammel made his first start of the season on the road against the Rockies, surrendering three earned runs on eight hits in winning fashion. While a handful of his outings had him pitching seven-to-eight innings, Hammel had around 15 games in which he worked five innings or less.

In those games, opposing teams tagged him for 42 earned runs behind 80 hits across 52 1/3 innings of work. His frustration began to surface when skipper Joe Maddon was forced to call upon his bullpen to relieve him on the mound.

The 33-year-old right-hander appeared to be annoyed or upset with himself on several occasions whenever he was pulled early. When it was time to reach the postseason, relying on Hammel to get through a few starts was somewhat nerve-wracking to say the least.

While starting opposite John Lackey in Chicago’s series-clinching win over the Cardinals, Jason gave up two earned runs on three hits including one homer across three frames.

After both Arrieta and Lester failed to pull Chicago out of a hole against the New York Mets in the N.L.C.S., things didn’t go well for Maddon’s No. 3 starter either.

Daniel Murphy and company chased him after 1 1/3, driving in five runs on four hits and two homers. With the Cubs searching for several pitchers to help anchor out the rest of the rotation, Hammel could find himself battling for either a fourth or fifth spot.