With the various factors plaguing the starting rotation early on, left-hander Cole Hamels has been a stabilizing force for the Chicago Cubs early in the season.
No, that is not a play on words regarding Hamels’ $20 million option the Cubs picked up over the offseason. However, one has to wonder what the Cubs’ starting rotation would look like at this point if Hamels was not brought back for 2019.
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The Cubs left-hander spun another gem on Wednesday against the Miami Marlins, pitching seven shutout innings. Hamels allowed just three hits—two of which came in the seventh inning—while walking no one and recording eight strikeouts.
Hamels has played a large part in the Cubs’ recent success following their 1-6 start. Including Wednesday against the Marlins, Hamels has been the winning pitcher in three of the last seven Cubs victories.
It’s no coincidence that Hamels has thrown quality starts in each of those three wins. He pitched six innings of two-run ball against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 6 and eight innings of one-run ball six days later against the Los Angeles Angels.
Hamels lost his first start of the season, allowing five runs in five innings against the Texas Rangers on March 31. However, the Rangers’ biggest hit of the game—a Delino DeShields grand slam in the fourth inning—came on the heels of several questionable ball calls that extended the inning for Texas. Prior to that point, Hamels had looked good, as well.
Obstacle course on the North Side
Hamels made no excuses for his performance following that game and has bounced back in a big way since. Outside of that one start, he has been a force for the Cubs’ rotation, one that has dealt with a multitude of obstacles to start the season.
Jon Lester got off to a hot start (2.57 ERA, three starts) before landing on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain on April 10. Yu Darvish showed signs of improvement on Tuesday, though his control has been shaky at times and he holds a 6.11 ERA in four starts.
Kyle Hendricks has allowed 14 runs (just eight earned) in 13 1/3 innings to start the season, pitching no more than five innings in each start. José Quintana got smacked in the face (eight runs in three innings against the Milwaukee Brewers) on April 5 but has been stellar otherwise.
Glad to have ya
Meanwhile, the longmen in the bullpen—Mike Montgomery and Tyler Chatwood have struggled in the early going. Montgomery landed on the 10-day injured list with a mild left lat strain on April 6, though he got knocked around (five earned runs in 2 2/3 innings) before that.
Chatwood hasn’t allowed a run in two-straight appearances, but he’s walked five batters in six innings. Overall, the takeaway from all of this is the Cubs pitching staff has dealt with a lot in the first three weeks of the season.
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One player doesn’t make or break a baseball team, but who knows where the Cubs would stand right now without Cole Hamels. There was plenty of talk about the Cubs’ budget over the offseason, but it looks like Hamels is worth every penny they’re paying him and more.