After an inconsistent and, frankly, disappointing second half, Cole Hamels is likely coming to the end of his Chicago Cubs tenure in the next week-plus.
The Chicago Cubs have gotten more than any of us could have anticipated when it comes to Cole Hamels. At the time, the veteran southpaw carried an unsightly 5.20 FIP in the first half as a member of the Texas Rangers – hardly what I’d consider reinforcements.
But he quickly made me – and a lot of other folks – eat crow. Post-trade, Hamels made a dozen starts for Chicago, pitching to a 2.36 ERA and even bringing home August 2018 National League Pitcher of the Month honors. Those efforts prompted the Cubs to pick up his $20 million team option for 2019 – a steep price the front office hoped would pay dividends.
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For a brief while, well, really until he hit the shelf with an oblique injury mid-season, it did. In his first 17 starts this season, Hamels put up some pretty sterling numbers. Really, he maintained what he did down the stretch for the team in 2019 – which is exactly what the Cubs needed.
In the first half, the lefty averaged 8.8 strikeouts per nine, working to a 2.98 ERA. But since, it’s been an entirely different story – as both Hamels and fellow veteran hurler Jon Lester have struggled in a big way down in recent weeks.
Since the All-Star Break (and returning from injury), Hamels’ numbers have skyrocketed. He carries a 1.974 WHIP and 6.39 ERA, as opponents have lit him up almost every time he takes the mound – evidenced by their cumulative .949 OPS against Hamels.
Last week, manager Joe Maddon pulled Hamels in just the fourth inning – a game the bullpen and offense thankfully salvaged for Hamels. But the veteran knew he didn’t live up to the billing – and more importantly, he didn’t deliver for his teammates.
"“Every game right now is a playoff game,” Hamels told MLB.com. “We have to win.”"
To get to that point, Hamels threw 73 pitches – and just three dozen found the zone. He walked five and hit another batter – and perhaps more importantly, he failed to eat innings at a time the Cubs need some quality starts. That marked three straight outings where he didn’t hit the five-inning plateau once.
He’s not eating innings. He’s not effective when he is on the mound, either. I’m not sure which is more troubling given the 35-year-old has the fifth-most innings among active pitchers to his credit – 2,690 frames in all.
That workload, paired with the diminishing returns the Cubs are getting on the mound make what’s coming perfectly clear. Cole Hamels likely has a couple more years in this game – but it won’t be as a member of the Chicago Cubs.