Monthly Archives: November 2008

Cole Hamels, on the Full Season

The season is gloriously over, with the Phillies winning the World Series on the back of (among others, of course), Cole Hamels.  Hamels had an excellent season, and is expected to finish in the top 5 in Cy Young Award voting, likely falling behind Johan Santana, and Tim Lincecum, falling into the mix with Brandon Webb and teammate Brad Lidge. The numbers:

Player: Innings, ERA, HR/BB/SO

Hamels: 227.3, 3.09, 28/53/196
Santana: 234.3, 2.53, 23/63/206
Lincecum: 227.0, 2.62, 11/84/265
Webb: 226.7, 3.30, 13/64/183
Lidge: 69.3, 1.95, 2/35/92

Now, last season, while talking about the Beckett vs Sabathia Cy Young debate, Joe Posnanski wondered why we don’t count post-season numbers when considering candidates.  I happen to agree with him, and though it might not be entirely fair, here are the new number for the candidates, counting all their regular season, and postseason work:

Hamels: 262.3, 2.92, 30/62/226
Santana: 234.3, 2.53, 23/63/206
Lincecum: 227.0, 2.62, 11/84/265
Webb: 226.7, 3.30, 13/64/183
Lidge: 78.7, 1.83, 2/38/105

As neither the Mets, Giants, or Diamondbacks made the postseason, only Hamels and Lidge had the opportunity to augment or diminish their overall 2008 performances.  Both pitchers were better in the postseason than the regular season, so the race gets tighter.  Converting their counting numbers to rate stats, we can compare the pitchers on a per-inning basis:

Pitcher: HR/9, BB/9, SO/9

Hamels: 1.03, 2.13, 7.75
Santana: 0.88, 2.42, 7.91
Lincecum: 0.44, 3.33, 10.51
Webb:  0.52, 2.58, 7.27
Lidge: 0.26, 4.94, 11.94

Hamels shows by far the best control of the group, and posts a solid strikeout rate, but suffers from a bit of a home run tendency.  1.03 HR/9 really isn’t so bad–it’s about league average–but running with this group, Hamels is the clear trailer.  Santana is better, though not by a large margin, while Webb and Lincecum dual it out among starters, and Lidge laps the field.  It’s worth noting that Santana, Webb, and Lincecum all pitch in home run unfriendly home ballparks, though oddly Santana posted similar Home/Road homer splits, and both Webb and Lincecum were better on the road.  In fact, Lincecum was much worse in San Francisco than he was elsewhere.

In contrast to Hamels excellent control is Lidge’s wildness.  His walk rate is more than double both Santana’s and Hamels’, and is nearly double Webb’s.  Lincecum is wild in his own right, though his 3.33 isn’t quite in the same league as Lidge’s 4.94.  I’m not sure if walk rates tend to go up or down for starters and relievers (taking a quick and dirty scan of a few guys who have done both, I think walk rate drops somewhat), but needless to say, whatever trouble Lidge seems to ever find himself is likely self-produced.  5BB/9IP is just crazy.

In Lidge’s favor is that he counteracts his walk issues by striking out just about everyone he sees.  About 45% of the outs Lidge generated were by the K.  More than a third (36%) of the batters who came to the plate against him walked away after striking out.  The only starter who can even see Lidge’s K rate is Lincecum with a 10.51.

I’m no sabermetrician, obviously, but it seems to me that Hamels has a fairly compelling Cy Young case if one considers his substantial innings advantage.  Forgetting about Lidge for the moment, strictly on an inning by inning basis, Hamels is probably ahead of Webb, and pretty even with Santana.  Despite the walks, Lincecum seems to have a good claim to the prize.  Of course, weighted by innings advantage, Hamels closes the gap on Lincecum, but by how much, I cannot say.

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