By Meghan Pastorino (@meghanXrino)
If I were Cole Hamels, I would go home tonight and thank my lucky stars that Ryan Howard was my teammate. Because without him, he have a big ole no decision.
With #35 toeing the mound after a disappointing 2009, it was easily the second most anticipated start of the season. If you know me, I have never been Hamels’ biggest fan. I’m a smart enough fan to appreciate what the guy did in 2008, but going into this year, to change my mind, he is going to have to pitch effectively on a consistent basis to prove last year was a fluke.
Tonight, as bad I as I wanted the WFC MVP to show up, that Cole Hamels is still missing in action. He wasn‘t exactly awful, but he didn’t pitch exceptionally well, either, but I think many of us were expecting more for the former ace’s 2010 debut. While he got the win and allowed only two earned runs, John Lannan could probably pitch in our rotation and get a few wins backed by our offense, too. The major problems that seemed to plague Hamels last year reared their ugly heads tonight. The main problem with Hamels seems to be his inability to face adversity during games. After walking the leadoff man on four pitches, Cole opted to throw to first several times before focusing on getting the first out. He looked visibly bothered. He was given a two run lead, and quickly relinquished it. He then relinquished it again, but turned around and helped his own cause by tying the game up at 3 on a hard hit liner to right.
While he was given a small strike zone to work with, Cole did himself no favors by walking four and seemed disinterested in attacking hitters. In my opinion, I’d rather have my guy get beat going after someone than allow base runners a free pass. Lastly, the other major 2009 problem showed up: too many fouled off balls. Even with the new additions of a curve and cutter, I still don’t believe that Cole has made the necessary adjustments to a league of hitters who know him. 103 pitches through a mere five innings tells me that Hamels needed to work harder. He labored against an inferior lineup and allowed too many base runners.
It would be nice to say with the line of 5H, 2ER, 5K, and 4BB and the optimistic side of me hopes Cole will build on this decent outing. But while the stats above are okay — the velocity was down tonight, there was a lack of control throwing his new curve, and the worst, 103 pitches through five, doesn’t give me a great expectation for his next outing. Hamels needs more confidence throwing the curve and needs to use it more than five times out of 103 pitches. He needs to start attacking hitters. He needs to realize a major part of our success this year lies on his shoulders. He needs to find his former MVP self and do what he knows he can. The league is catching up, and Hamels is still behind them. How many more excuses are we going to hear, how many more “so-so” outings before the real Cole Hamels shows back up?