On July 27 the Cubs acquired left handed starter Cole Hamels from the Rangers. They were in pretty desperate need of starting pitching because neither of their big free agent signings was going according to plan. Yu Darvish was on the DL despite hope he might make a return in 2018 (he didn’t). Tyler Chatwood was not on the DL but his walk rate was soaring into the stratosphere and even though there were moments where it looked like he might be okay, it was pretty clear if he didn’t work out his control issues the Cubs were going to need another option.
So they went with Cole Hamels, who by all accounts looked to be in the twilight of an outstanding career. At the time I wrote:
What does it mean to be an ace?
Beyond that, what does it mean to be an ace who has postseason experience? A guy who knows exactly what it means to toe the rubber in the World Series? How much of that muscle memory comes into play in a big moment, in a big season? How much can that experience overcome what looked like a season of an ace in decline? How much of that competitive spirit and muscle memory can be activated by joining a first place team in a big trade in July?
This post doesn’t contain answers to any of those questions, but I think they are still questions Cubs fans should keep in mind as they read this (and every other) piece on the Cole Hamels trade. I mean, for what it’s worth, last year I was sitting on an almost identical place on my couch when I concluded that Justin Verlander was done and the Cubs shouldn’t even think about that trade... and frankly, I was obviously wrong. But June 2017 Justin Verlander was having a season that looked a lot like 2018 July Cole Hamels... so...
Well, Cole Hamels didn’t just channel his inner Verlander, for his first starts with the Cubs he was actually better than Verlander had been in his first starts with the Astros. So for the last day of Cubsmas, I wanted to take a look at some of the highlights from 12 Cole Hamels starts in 2018, full disclosure, not all 12 of them had highlights, but I still couldn’t think of a better way to cap off Cubsmas.
August 1: Cole Hamels makes his Cubs debut
Hamels debuted against the Pirates in Pittsburgh with an outstanding game. He threw 5 innings with a line of 3H 1R 0ER 2BB 9K. He had 14 swinging strikes. Oh, and he even managed to leg out an infield hit [VIDEO].
August 6: Cole gets by with a bit of help from his defense
Hamels didn’t have quite the same swing and miss stuff in his second start against the Royals, but it didn’t matter. He was getting a lot of ground ball contact and he had some outstanding defense, including a slick play at third from Javier Baez. He threw 6 innings, and 97 pitches with a line of 7H 1R 1ER 1BB 2K [VIDEO].
August 12: Cole throws seven innings of 1 hit ball against the Nationals
This was one of Hamels’ best outings with the Cubs. He threw 7 innings on 98 pitches and had the following line: 1H 1R 1ER 1BB 9K. Incredibly, Hamels was never in line for the win in this game. He was getting outdueled by Max Scherzer and it looked like he might take a loss until David Bote hit his ultimate grand slam. Let’s take a look at a pretty outstanding outing by Hamels [VIDEO].
August 17: Seven scoreless innings
On August 17 the Pirates got their second look at Cole Hamels in less than three weeks. It really didn’t help them all that much. Hamels again threw seven innings, on just 98 pitches. His line for this game wound up at 5H 0R 0ER 2BB 3K [VIDEO].
August 23: Cole Hamels tosses a complete game
This was Hamels’ best start as a Cub. He only gave up one run over nine complete innings against Cincinnati. Take a look at some highlights from this gem below [VIDEO].
You can hear Cole’s thoughts on this game from his post game interview [VIDEO].
August 28: Hamels’ gritty performance
He didn’t have quite the longevity for his next start, but he still threw five strong scoreless innings to help the Cubs stave off eventual Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom. It looked like Cole might be in trouble early, but he got a critical strike out with runners at the corners and never looked back [VIDEO].
September: A series of unfortunate events
After that outstanding August Hamels delivered six starts in September, five of which were substantially above average. However, this was the month where everything went sort of sideways for the Cubs and their bats. As a result his month has a series of no-decisions and losses in it, and really, only one of those (the September 19 loss against the Diamondbacks) can be pinned on poor starting pitching.
For example, on September 3 Hamels had a solid outing against the Brewers throwing six innings with a line of 5H 2R 2ER 1BB 5K but the Cubs bats came up just short this day and couldn’t really get a sustained rally going, despite Anthony Rizzo hitting a home run off Josh Hader in the top of the eighth.
So rather than look at each individual game, I wanted to use this space to look at the body of work Hamels put together in his time with the Cubs:
Cole Hamels 2018 with the Cubs and Career
The best part of Hamels’ performance with this Cubs is that it looks a lot like vintage Hamels. While he’s likely due for a bit of regression in 2019, his BABIP is in line with his career average. While his ERA outperformed his FIP and xFIP in his time with the Cubs, some of that can be explained by having a better defense behind him, and with any luck that isn’t going to change in 2019. The bottom line is none of these key stats look like a pitcher who was getting tremendously lucky. Hopefully we’ll have a lot more awesome Hamels’ starts to look back on in 2019.
And there they are, your 12 Days of Cubsmas. Take a second to let us know what your favorite day of Cubsmas was in the poll below, and Happy Holidays Cubs fans!
On the twelfth day of Cubsmas my true love gave to me: 12 Cole Hamels starts, 11 Schwarber assists, ten Strop saves, nine incredible outfield plays, eight runners picked off, a seven game winning streak, six Rizzo steals (and so much more), five comeback wins, four postseason appearances in a row, three epic relief appearances, two walkoff grand slams, and a Javy MVP candidate.
What was your favorite day of Cubsmas?
This poll is closed
1 Javy MVP Candidate
2 Walkoff Grand Slams
3 Epic Relief Appearances
4 Postseason Appearances in a Row
5 Comeback Wins
6 Rizzo Steals (and so much more)
7 Game Winning Streak
8 Runners Picked Off
9 Incredible Outfield Plays
10 Strop Saves
11 Schwarber Assists
12 Cole Hamels Starts