Chicago Cubs: What can we expect in a full season from Cole Hamels?

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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One could make the case Cole Hamels saved the Chicago Cubs last year. Back for his first full season on the North Side, the veteran is ready to bring home a title.

Bringing back left-hander Cole Hamels via his $20 million team option defined the entire offseason for the Chicago Cubs. Given the club’s inherent financial limitations, committing that much to a 35-year-old was a bold move – and one that could go a long way in deciding the team’s upcoming season.

Following his trade to Chicago, the southpaw turned back the clock, earning National League Pitcher of the Month honors in August after he turned in a 0.69 ERA in six starts. Although he faded a bit down the stretch, there’s no disputing how big of a boost Hamels provided in the wake of Tyler Chatwood’s ineffectiveness and Yu Darvish’s season-ending injury.

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Now, Darvish is healthy and feeling better than ever before and Chatwood, at least in early Cactus League results, is looking like a guy far more deserving of his three-year, $39 million deal than the one who led Major League Baseball in walks last season. So expect much more from both those guys – while Hamels helps a fellow veteran, Jon Lester, anchor the starting rotation.

In Mesa for his first camp with the Cubs, Hamels has been able to form more relationships and serve as a clubhouse leader – something he said he wasn’t able to do as much last season, instead relying on his on-field contributions.

"“It is nice to get into the system and the routine of what camp is and what guys are trying to do,” he told MLB.com. “You have guys that are speaking, and you build camaraderie with each other out on the field, playing catch, the drills, the weight room. You’re able to focus on the whole goal as a team. It’s a nice feeling.”"

In a dozen outings with Chicago last summer, Hamels pitched to a 2.36 ERA – a drastic improvement on his 4.72 mark with the Rangers. He improved on virtually every metric – and really cut down on the long-ball down the stretch, allowing him to be much more effective on the bump.

Now, I don’t know if I’m expecting him to be quite as lights-out as he was in 2018, but I think heading into the season expecting 30 starts, a mid-3.00 ERA and 170-180 innings is a pretty realistic target. Adding that to Lester, who continues to age gracefully, Kyle Hendricks, a former Cy Young finalist himself and the rest of the mix gives manager Joe Maddon an incredibly deep, talented rotation.

Next. Quintana pitching well early this spring. dark

And one more way Hamels will help in the clubhouse? His ability to roll with the punches, not dwell on the past and focus on the task-at-hand: helping the Cubs return to the top of the division this season.

"“In this game, you tend to forget about the bad starts and bad outings, and something that’s 9-10 months ago, I’m not really focused on anymore. I don’t think I even look at the video, so it’s not something I need to be aware of. It’s a new season, new things I’m working on, and I’m just sticking to that.”"

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