Chicago Cubs: Believe the hype surrounding a reborn Cole Hamels

Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /

Nearly three weeks after acquiring 34-year old left-handed starter Cole Hamels from the Texas Rangers, the Chicago Cubs have benefitted from a trio of masterful starts. Despite the small sample size with the north-siders, there is reason to believe that his successes will continue.

As this year’s non-waiver trade deadline approached, Cole Hamels was struggling just as much as the Chicago Cubs’ rotation. Prior to the deadline deal, Hamels had posted a woeful 5.20 FIP and 4.72 ERA, equating to a mere 0.3 fWAR. Since then in three starts, he has posted an eye-opening 1.94 FIP and 1.00 ERA, boosting his season fWAR to 1.0.

As noted in a recent Fangraphs article by Craig Edwards, Hamels has seen nearly a 40 point decrease in BABIP as well as nearly a 10 percent increase in LOB percentage since joining the Cubs. Typically, this could be a sign of “luck.” However, the Cubs are known to have one of the better defensive units in all of baseball which could be in direct correlation with Hamel’s improvements on the mound.

Aside from the metrics that could be affected by the environment a pitcher throws in, Hamels has also improved in other, more challenging areas to overcome. His K/9 has increased by nearly one batter and his BB/9 has decreased by a batter over his previous three starts. He has also seen a one mph uptick in velocity for most of his pitches. With Hamels’ age, an increase in velocity of any kind is a great sign and will prove to be beneficial to him down the stretch of the season.

As icing on the cake, Hamels has also induced whiffs on nearly one out of every three changeups he has thrown with the Cubs. He has also been much more effective in his pitch placement, generating a majority of these swinging strikes near the bottom, inside of the zone. This is a great sign, considering earlier in the season, Hamels was allowing an abundance of home-runs due to poor pitch placement higher up in the zone.

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To top it all off, Hamels has the proven big-game experience that will be vital to the Cubs if they have real hopes of reaching the World Series this season. His veteran savviness is just what the struggling rotation may have needed to spark a run over the remaining vital few months of the regular season.

Pairing all of these improvements together along with the natural change of scenery from Arlington to Chicago has proven to be extremely beneficial for Hamels thus far. The test going forward will be whether or not he can adjust to the inevitable changes batters will make at the plate when facing him.