There is no question that veteran left-hander Cole Hamels found new life after being acquired by the Chicago Cubs just before the 2018 trade deadline.
After pitching to a 5-9 record and a 4.72 ERA with the Texas Rangers, veteran left-hander Cole Hamels went 4-3 with a 2.36 ERA in 12 starts for the Chicago Cubs, including wins in four of his first five starts with Chicago.
The 2008 World Series MVP provided a critical boost to the rotation in the second half, and his performance was enough for the front office to pick up his $20 million option.
Now, heading into his age 35 season, the pressure will be on Hamels to string out the late success he experienced with the Cubs over the course of a full season. Call it his own New Year’s resolution, if you will.
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For starters – no pun intended – Hamels was terrific at Wrigley Field. He made six starts at the Friendly Confines last season, posting a 1.55 ERA and a 10.3 K/9. Hamels also threw the only complete game of 2018 by a Cubs pitcher in an Aug. 23 home victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
But as good as Hamels was at home, he was perhaps even better (in totality) on the road.
Hamels pitched to a 7-3 record and 3.07 ERA in 16 starts on the road, which includes his outings with the Rangers. Considering just how brutal his other peripherals were in Texas, his performance on the road should not go unrecognized.
Part of Hamels’ resurgence had to do with the increased effectiveness of his fastball. According to FanGraphs, Hamels’ average fastball velocity was nearly a full mile per hour faster in Chicago (93.2) than it was with the Rangers (92.3), and he registered a 5.9 value with the Cubs after suffering a -16.0 rating in Texas.
Similarly, Hamels was able to reestablish his changeup as an out pitch, accruing a 3.0 value after running negative numbers with the Rangers.
Given his age and the sheer mileage on his arm, it will be crucial for Hamels to continue to find success with his offspeed pitches. His ability to locate at every part of the strike zone was evident in Chicago, and it must be on full display again next season.
It is unrealistic to believe that Hamels will post a sub-3.00 ERA season in 2019, particularly considering that he still posted a 3.42 FIP with the Cubs. He is due for some regression. But still, the southpaw has asserted himself as a crucial member of the rotation, and he will look to expand on his career renaissance in Chicago next year.