Meet the Newest Atlanta Braves Starting Pitcher, Cole Hamels

Cole Hamels has signed with the Braves on a 1-year deal for $18M. A 14 year veteran, Hamels is coming off a good, if inconsistent, year with the Cubs that saw him go 7-7 with ERA and FIP both about 4, good for 3 WAR. He turns 36 in a couple of weeks and is noted as a gym rat with a fabulous work ethic. His repertoire is very similar to former Brave Dallas Keuchel except that Hamels throws more fastballs and gets about 12.5% swings-and-misses on his pitches which is significantly better than Keuchel. The walks trended up to 3.5 per nine last year which is troublesome but it could well be a one year blip.

Given his long history as an above-average-to-elite performer in MLB, I thought I’d do a Keltner List to see where Cole currently stands.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball?
Hamels was never the best player in baseball.

2. Was he the best player on his team?
At his peak, Hamels was the third wheel to Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. He was the best player on the Phillies after Halladay’s injury and retirement.

3. Was he the best player in baseball (or in the league) at his position?
While Hamels was never the very best pitcher in the game he has long been one of the top15 or so guys in baseball.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
Hamels was a key component of the Phillies World Series winning team a decade ago. His trade to the Cubs in August 2018 is credited with turning around the Cubs season.

5. Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?
A 35 year old Hamels put up 3 WAR last season. He still has plenty in the tank.

6. Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
No. that would be Bonds and Clemens

7. Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?
Cole is still about 50 wins shy of where modern consideration for the Hall of Fame begins for pitchers. Bill James’ Favorite Toy method gives him about 20% chance of 210 wins and 8% of 225. OTOH, he is only 442 strikeouts shy of 3000. The toy gives a 55% chance on this one.

8. Do the players numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
Currently he is at 59.6 WAR on bref. While this is much better than Jack Morris, it is in the lower tiers of generally acceptable resumes at this time. Fortunately, he has time. 3 more seasons like 2019 likely get it done.

9. Is there evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
Not really. Citizens Bank is a tough park to pitch in but as a lefty he largely avoided the ridiculously short right field fences.

10.Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?
Still Clemens.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
Hamels got votes in 9 different seasons for the Cy Young Award, peaking at #5 in 2011. He finished in the top 10 on 3 other occasions.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go into the Hall of Fame?
He was named to 4 All Star teams. The average Hall of Fame Pitcher has about five.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
At his peak, Hamels was putting up 5.5-6.5 win seasons. Many pennant winning teams have had worse leaders.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
Strangely, Mariano Rivera did not begin the current fashion for cutters. Since nobody could throw it like he did they didn’t even try. Hamels was the model for many of today’s stars that have adopted the pitch, including Dallas Keuchel.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Hamels runs a charitable foundation that provides funds for early childhood programs in Philadelphia and abroad. He and his wife donated their 32,000 square foot $10M mansion in Missouri to Camp Barnabas, a christian camp devoted to children with special needs or chronic illness. He has never been thrown out of a game or suspended by MLB. He has a reputation as a great teammate.

Conclusion: 3 more years of current production gets him in the discussion. Let’s hope he overachieves in 2020.

27 thoughts on “Meet the Newest Atlanta Braves Starting Pitcher, Cole Hamels”

  1. Bringing my post forward from the last article (with W/L record corrections):

    I think the off-season is reflective of what AA believes he has on the team already.

    1. The Braves already have a TOR. He was top 10 in SP WAR last season.

    2. The team is, once again, counting on Mike Foltynewicz to be some version of his effective self. In his last 8 starts, Folty was 4-1 with a 1.94 ERA and a 3.15 K/bb. He can do things.

    3. Sometimes I think Max Fried pitches better than the guy mentioned in 1. He had the highest K/bb (3.68) of anyone in the rotation and he was 17-6 last year because he doesn’t leave the game after 5 IP.

    4. Cole Hamels is the closest thing to a 36 year old John Smoltz we’re going to find, and if something goes wrong with one of the above, he’s the perfect anchor for a young rotation. Before going down to injury with the Cubs last season, Hamels was 6-3 w/ 2.98 ERA in 99 2/3 IP and 2.77 K/bb. He was not, as people are saying, basically Dallas Keuchel or Julio Teheran.

    I had hoped we would add another TOR to compliment the young Soroka and Fried, and I would have rather rolled the dice on Folty as our #4, but free agency proves time and again to be just a bad, bad place to go for top shelf talent. We need to trade for it (like go get Kluber), but seeing the above I can understand why we built up the bullpen first this off-season and now have provided a veteran to be a stabilizer in case things get crazy again like they did last spring with Folty, Newk, and Gaus.

  2. Very nice, Karl. Thank you. I wouldn’t have thought Hamels was even in the discussion, but if he pitches well enough over the next few years to get into the mid-60’s in WAR, then you’re talking about someone who had a lower peak than most Hall of Famers but a long, successful, and borderline HOF career. Overall, I don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer, but to your point, there are worse players in the Hall.

    This was briefly discussed on the podcast, but I hate that there is now a couple position players and a couple pitchers that really have no business being in the Hall, so when similar players that are not in the Hall are discussed, those players will inevitably and fairly be brought up. “If Harold Baines is in the Hall, so should Dale Murphy!” Or “If Jack Morris is in the Hall, so should Cole Hamels!” All 4 probably shouldn’t be in the Hall.

  3. They should go ahead and set up a Hall of Legends to set the best apart from the more fringe-y guys.

  4. I didn’t suggest Hamels belongs yet. It surprised me that he ended up as close as he did. Agree on Baines and Morris, disagree on Murph.

  5. Nicely done Karl. And I am completely in agreement with you on those 3. Even more worthy of being in the hall than any mentioned by you in Andruw

  6. Hey all! Just letting you know that I’ve expanded my recruitment to new tech guy! I’d like to welcome Matt Langford, native of Lafayette, Louisiana, to the Braves Journal family! If you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of fixes and/or small changes that have come about in the last few hours and that is all due to Matt! He’ll also be writing for Braves Journal as well as helping with the merchandising going forward!

    Here are some of the things that Matt has already knocked off the list in the last 3 hours:
    1. Added a little padding underneath the logo so it isn’t touching the nav bar.
    2. Removed the tiny icon under all of the post titles.
    3. Updated the sidebar to show the updated Atlanta Braves News
    4. Removed a couple sidebar widgets that weren’t functioning at all
    5. Removed the powered by vanilla milkshake text in the footer
    6. Fixed the nav bar so the last links show. I think more can be done with it to make it look better, but it’s at least showing everything for now.
    7. In the comments section, there was a weird strikethrough line showing on some text. I was able to fix that.
    8. In the comment section, I made the name of each commenter bold to help differentiate the comments. Very subtle change that just helps readability.

    Welcome, Matt! Great to have you!

  7. Thanks, Ryan! I’m excited to help out in anyway I can. I’ve been a Braves addict pretty much since birth, and I hope that shows in everything I do here. I’m excited to get this site loading faster and working as smoothly as possible. If anyone has any suggestions or comments along those lines, feel free to hit me up. It’s great to be here!

  8. Comment regarding Keltner Lists. IMO, I think you have to leave out Bonds and Clemens when considering answers to 6 and 10. They are special cases who are not in the HOF for reasons that have nothing to do with their on-field qualifications (obviously), and their exclusion doesn’t really address the spirit of the question.

  9. Welcome Matt! Thanks for the fixes already, was getting tired of the Markakis exceeding expectations piece.

    Really nice write up of Hamels by DOB in The Athletic. Well worth the subscription.

  10. Give us some background, Matt! I like seeing more tech people around here. I’m a software dev, myself.

  11. Snowshine, thanks! I kind of wish I could’ve left the Gohara link up there, but oh well.

    Donny, I’m a web designer by trade. Been doing that since WYSIWYG tools like Microsoft Frontpage existed. Obviously, I’ve moved on from that and do my own coding and such now. I’ve done both the freelance and corporate scenes, but I’m all in on freelance now. My degree is actually in Business from the University of Louisiana (Ragin Cajuns).

  12. Hamels was in fact the ace of the staff when the Phillies won their title in 2008. That was before they went out and got Halladay, Lee, and Oswalt.

  13. On the podcast: Andruw vs Dale Murphy:

    Andruw is not in the Hall of Fame because 1) he fell off a cliff and his terribad final seasons were extremely memorable and 2) he was always perceived as an underachiever because based on his career and the eye test as of the end of his age 23 year (the year he hit .300), he was supposed to be Willie Mays, and instead he just turned into a slightly better than average Hall of Famer.

  14. I wholeheartedly agree with @10. I grow a little bit weary of seeing Keltner lists where the answers to those questions are basically: Well, Bonds and Clemens still exist. I mean…yeah, obviously they do. I’m not sure that’s getting us anywhere in regard to whether or not the player in question is worthy of HOF consideration, though.

    There is a point somewhere on the list of steroid-tainted Hall of Fame candidates where it stops being obvious that the only reason they’re not in is because of said taint — where you can actually have a conversation about whether or not they’re worthy just based on their career numbers in and of themselves. But I think everyone can agree that’s not the case with Bonds and Clemens.

  15. instead he just turned into a slightly better than average Hall of Famer.

    So, in other words, a Hall of Famer.

  16. If you listen to the podcast, you will hear me trying to keep up with those other guys.

  17. @18, I’m explaining why I think as a matter of sociological fact he’s actually not in the Hall of Fame, not saying I agree.

  18. Bumgarner had a 5.29 ERA away from Oracle Park in 2019. God help the sucker team that signs him because he pitched well in the World Series years ago.

  19. The Braves inexplicably haven’t even retired #25. That needs to change sooner rather than later.

  20. You can’t just throw out his home starts but he got old awful fast. I don’t want to bet against him figuring out how to make the crafty lefty thing work well into his 30s, but I’d rather him figure it out somewhere other than here.

  21. The thing with Bumgarner that’s going to bite some team is the rumored length of the contract he’s looking for, I think. As Alex said, if he doesn’t figure out the “crafty” lefty thing, he might be relatively ineffective by the 3rd year; and the 4th or 5th year could be a total disaster. He’s already slipping a bit, so it’s not even just a case where you speculate with age. The signs are there. The Braves have enough pitching that good be as good as 2019 MadBum already, if things break right. No one may make the leap to 2014 Bumgarner in 2020, but Bumgarner ain’t going to be that either. So I also hope the Braves don’t get caught up investing there.

  22. re Bonds and Clemens on Keltner lists:

    This is not a recent problem. Pete Rose used to be the problem, and about 3/4 of the Hall is worse than Joe Jackson. I would advocate the same solution for Bonds and Clemens, except for the fact that the PED rules, unlike the gambling rules, were, and continue to be, incoherent.

  23. I adamantly believe both Bonds and Clemens should both be in the HoF. I mean they alledgedly broke rules that didn’t even exist for a majority of their careers, and the evidence is mostly all heresay.

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