Chicago Cubs: Jason Hammel is best suited for a swingman role
When thinking of Jason Hammel, Chicago Cubs fans probably think of his second half and postseason struggles. In 14 starts after the All-Star game, Hammel went 5-3 with a 5.10 ERA, only making it through 67 total innings.
Hammel struggling may have come as a surprise to many, but in reality, the Cubs have been deceived by his success in Chicago. Before being traded to the Oakland Athletics in 2014, Hammel went 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA in 17 starts.
During the first half of 2015, the big right-hander went 5-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 17 starts. Obviously, everything went downhill from there, but did it really? For his career, Hammel has gone 69-77 with a 4.49 ERA, far from what we have seen in Chicago.
Regardless of his first half success in 2014 and 2015, it is obvious Jason Hammel is not the guy who will have a sub 3.00 ERA every year, if at all. In fact, Hammel’s ERA has been higher than four every year but 2012, 2014, and 2015. In 2012, he had a 3.43 ERA, which is more than respectable.
But his earned run average in 2014 with the Athletics was 4.26.
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Essentially, what all of this means is that Hammel has been overachieving to an extent while with the Cubs. His career numbers speak for themselves, as Hammel clearly is durable (he has started 20 games every year since 2009) but his ERA shows he may not be suited for the starting rotation.
With the Cubs expected to add pitching this offseason, they will have a surplus of starters in 2016. And due to that surplus, Hammel needs to be moved to the bullpen.
In 2015, the Cubs had three pitchers who were starters their entire career (Travis Wood, Clayton Richard, and Trevor Cahill) excel in the bullpen. Wood had a 2.95 ERA as a reliever, Richard had a 4.44 ERA (however, he came up big in key spots time and time again), and Cahill had a 2.12 ERA.
Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio has been known to revive careers of struggling pitchers (see Jake Arrieta) and he worked his magic with Wood, Richard, and Cahill in 2015. Why not try Hammel in the bullpen and look for similar results? His fastball velocity tops in the upper 90’s, which would be valuable if the Cubs needed a strikeout in a big moment.
Furthermore, if the team needed him to, Hammel could step into the rotation if another starter gets hurt or begins to struggle. The benefits of moving the big righty to the bullpen are numerous, and while he may not like it, it is clear he has not put up great numbers as a starter.
All in all, it will be interesting to see what happens to Hammel come spring, as the Cubs should add several starters by then. If the team can get him on board to be a swingman, Hammel might enjoy more success than he has in his entire career.