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Texas Rangers Ace, Cole Hamels
Cole Hamels about to launch towards home plate
The Texas Rangers acquire ace pitcher Cole Hamels
Here in Texas we'd heard all the Winter the Texas Rangers were thinking of acquiring Cole Hamels that off season. We knew what an impressive duo we'd have were we to have both Cole and Yu Darvish starting for us. We'd high hopes for Derek Holland, we always have, and sometimes Derek brings us cheer, sometimes he doesn't.
Watching American League ball all the time, one doesn't get as familiar with the players in the National League. We with the powers of internet, however, can always find out in short order what someone's stats are over the history of the person's career. We can look at the old vids on youtube, and read the old articles.
Well, the Rangers did not acquire Cole Hamels that off season. The interest was still there, though, and apparently the interest existed on both ends of the equation. Cole Hamels wanted to come to Texas and pitch. That's not something that is always the case with a big name established starter. Everyone knows it is hot in the Texas summers. It might be one hundred degrees at game time, and the pitcher stands on that mound right in the sunshine. The open air dugouts surely aren't so much cooler either.
Texas Rangers Ace, Cole Hamels
Not everyone can pitch in Texas
I remember years ago when old Roy Halladay was pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Blue Jays were in town to face the Texas Rangers at our lovely stadium. The place was called The Ballpark in Arlington at the time, now Globe Life Park, as we call it now. Anyway, Halladay was a Cy Young winner the season before, I believe, and was clearly one of the most impressive starters in either league of Major League Baseball at that time. He had a great fastball, and a completely devastating curve ball. Thing about it was Roy Halladay couldn't handle the Texas sunshine. Three innings in and he looked like someone who'd been sweating it out on a chain gang or something. He looked like he was maybe going to pass out. He talked about how brutal the weather was after that game.
A few years later Roy Halladay would be pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies, and there he'd get to know a young man named Cole Hamels. Hamels and Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt would make for the most fearsome starting rotation in all of baseball while they were together in Philadelphia. They were a real set of comrades in arms. Oswalt and Lee would both come to Texas before too much longer. Finally, Texas got Cole Hamels.
Cliff Lee - as a Texas Ranger
Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee
When the Texas Rangers got Cliff Lee on the team late in 2010, the team was in a race to the finish line for the AL west pennant. Cliff Lee brought more than just his arm, he brought a real sense that the team had a true ace. Oh his regular season numbers weren't so spectacular in the time he spent in Texas, but his presence was like a huge vote of confidence to the team and to the fans. He seemed to inspire young Derek Holland to be all he could be too. We all knew Cliff Lee was just going to be a gun for hire.
The greatness that Cliff Lee used to bring to the pitching rubber wherever it was he was playing surely rubbed off some on Cole Hamels when the two were teammates in Philadelphia. Their pitching styles aren't too different. Cole Hamels actually has the better body for the job, he is a larger man than Cliff. When you think of how cool, calm, collected, and dedicated Cole Hamels always seems to be you kinda have to assume he'd be the Cole Hamels he is today with or without having ever known Cliff Lee.
A young Cole Hamels
Colbert Michael Hamels
Born as Colbert Michael Hamels in 1983, it is said that at twelve years of age he could have lived on his own had he only been capable financially. He was always athletic, and was drafted in the first round right out of high school in 2002. He won a two million dollar signing bonus as a high school graduate.Only six years later he'd be winning such prestigious awards as World Series MVP.
Four years out of high school, and Cole Hamels made his major league debut. It may have come sooner had he not injured himself seriously in a bar fight in 2005. Pitchers always have arm injuries, it is just amazing that Hamels, a model of composure, ever got into a situation where he literally broke a bone punching someone in the face. Then again, that's something indicative of the competitive spirit so necessary to becoming an ace pitcher in Major League Baseball.
Arm injuries can sometimes bear strange fruit. It was during an arm injury where Cole couldn't work on his curve ball that he instead worked on a change-up. His change-up may well be the best of all change-ups in Major League Baseball. When you are a guy like Cole Hamels, and you know you are being judged so often on the velocity of your fastball, and the bite of your curve ball, you often overlook pitches such as the change-up. Instead, Cole Hamels has virtually perfected the pitch.
Cole Hamels with the Philadelphia Phillies
Cole Hamels early success with the Philadelphia Phillies
His first two starts in the Major Leagues were auspicious, yet he earned no decisions in those starts. From the outset he showed himself to be both a ground ball pitcher and a strikeout pitcher. In just his second season in the top league, he became his team's number one starter, even making the All Star team.
Cole's life with the Phillies early on wasn't always picture perfect. There were disputes about his pay. Disputes even as to who the team ace was, but those disputes were in the offices of the team, not in the numbers produced by Hamels, or in the minds of his teammates. In 2008 he'd throw his first complete game shutout. He'd only just miss recording two hundred strikeouts, and he led the league with the lowest on base percentage against him.
In 2008 the Phillies went to the playoffs and won. Cole Hamels was rated by FanGraphs as having the best change-up in baseball, and the Phillies would march through the National League playoffs to the World Series, where Cole Hamels would win not only National League Championship Series MVP, but also the World Series MVP. He was only six years out of high school at the time, and was dominating the best in the business on the biggest stage there is for baseball. Clearly, Cole Hamels was a clutch situation performer.
Cole Hamels in the 2008 World Series
Cole Hamels - ups and downs in Philadelphia
Following the 2008 season which had established Cole Hamels as a debonair big league star, he had more of the same - seasons where he proved himself to be one of the best left handed starting pitchers in baseball. Truth is, he showed to be one of the best starters in baseball of either pitching hand, and one thing above all stood out, and that was his consistency. Cole Hamels could forever be counted on to provide a quality start of six or more innings. He was always good for around two hundred innings and as many or more strikeouts. His earned run average was forever just over three runs a game, or even under that nearly sacred statistical parameter.
Oh the Philadelphia Phillies had invested heavily, and banked on their starters. There were some impressive rotations, and Cole Hamels performed well. The Philadelphia offense, however, often left Cole Hamels hanging out to dry. Cole had his best winning season in Philadelphia in 2012 when he won seventeen haves, and had a .739 winning percentage. Then came the dismal 2013 season, where despite pitching more than effectively, Cole Hamels suffered the indignity of a losing record, winning only eight games and losing fourteen while throwing two hundred and twenty innings.
Long and tall, Cole Hamels with the Texas Rangers
Cole Hamels Rookie Card PSA 10 2002 Bowman Chrome #17
Cole Hamels - traded to Texas and becomes ace of the Rangers pitching staff
The 2014 season in Philadelphia was scarcely better than the dismal season before it. The Phillies offense barely existed, and despite Hamels having a stellar earned run average of 2.46 and pitching two hundred and four innings, he only had a five hundred record of nine wins and nine loses. Cole never lost heart, and never approached a start with anything less than his best self to present, but the team was going nowhere, and it became obvious that as soon as Cole was able, he'd find a contender to play for.
When the 2015 season arrived everyone knew, especially Cole Hamels, that he'd be on the trading block, and traded he would be - but not before pitching his first career no hit ballgame. The 2015 season was looking like a repeat of the two previous seasons in Philly where Cole would pitch like a staff ace, and have an ugly record to show for it. The Phillies management knew they were in a rebuilding phase, and they knew Hamels was unhappy, and they also knew what a great deal of good prospects they could get by trading Hamels to a contender.
Cole Hamels came to Texas with fireball throwing late innings guy Jake Diekman for five players. Among the five were power hitting catching prospect Jorge Alfaro, a man the Rangers organization would only part with for someone the caliber of Hamels. Highly touted as well was power pitching prospect Jake Thompson, who may well be more ready for the Major Leagues than Alfaro.
The Hamels trade proved a major success for the Texas Rangers, just as the Cliff Lee acquisition had been several years before, but with Hamels, the Rangers knew they would be keeping him for some years, and maybe for the rest of his career. The Rangers went seven wins and one loss in Hamels regular season appearances on the team, and the vote of confidence a team feels by having a real ace of the pitching staff was noted by all. Cole had said he wanted to go somewhere where he could pitch meaningful games, and that is what he got to do in late 2015 with Texas. Going into 2016 he'll be the staff ace, and hopefully Derek Holland will again have someone to look up to as an example, and of course, the great hope is that when Yu Darvish returns, the Texas Rangers and Cole Hamels will once again be playoff bound in 2016. Thanks for reading.