Banister Should Consider Reinging in His Old Horse
The last time we saw Cole Hamels, he was doing something he had never done before in his postseason career — he went 3.1 innings in Game 1 of the ALDS. The 10 recorded outs marked the shortest postseason outing of the career for the Rangers’ leading man. That game ended in a loss for the American League’s No. 1 seed and, eventually, resulted in a series loss — a sweep to be exact.
Hamels’ performance in Game 1 wasn’t unforeseeable. August and September were riddled with red flags. As Craig Miller and Gordon Keith of the Ticket like to play, “Let’s count the red flags…”
- In those two months, his record was 3-3. One. (12-2 W-L from April to July)
- Opponents batting average was .265. Two. (.233 from April to July)
- His ERA was 4.28. Three. (2.84 from April to July)
- Opponents were getting on base percentage at a .330 clip. Four. (.313 from April to July)
- Opponents OPS was .723. FIVE. (.687 from April to July)
This isn’t news to Rangers fans, as even the casual fan knew Hamels was struggling as the team headed into the postseason. There were plenty of opinions, from the radio waves to the printed word, surrounding the impending 2016 postseason, Hamels’ recent poor performances, and how to reconcile those two things.
It’s not rocket science — no team is going very far without their staff ace throwing his best stuff.
Admittedly, I agreed with some of the following opinions and thoughts on Hamels going into Game 1 of the ALDS.
- Hamels can flip a switch and be that ace again.
- It’s the postseason, Hamels will step up.
- He’s had nothing to pitch for over the last two months.
As it turns out, those opinions were wrong, and the writing was on the wall dating back to the beginning of August.
So, what does this mean heading into 2017?
Jeff Banister needs to consider pulling in the reins on Hamels. Maybe that is resting him an extra day between starts or converting to a six-man rotation. It could be a need to add bullpen depth or even put him on a pitch count. Something. Anything. But, it’s evident Hamels was spent by October.
His collapse will require Yu Darvish to shoulder the burden like Hamels did last season in Darvish’s absence. It’s perfect timing for the free agent to be.
Darvish will be able to show teams he is worthy of a staff ace contract. At the same time, his current team will be primed for a World Series run* with a better rested Cole Hamels. Darvish is young enough, theoretically, to effectively pitch his way through a regular season and postseason.
If I’m Banister, it makes sense to risk cutting some W’s in the regular season in order to have Hamels truly ready for an October pennant run. Naturally, things do not always go right throughout the course of a season. In fact, it is as sure as the Sun will rise tomorrow that things will go wrong. Should one of those things be the rotation, then Hamels would need to step in and pitch on a routine basis.
Until that point, Banister and the Rangers’ brass need to devise a plan to rein in Hamels. Whether that be from April to September, or July to September — it needs to happen. Jon Daniels, the Rangers President of Baseball Operations and General Manager, didn’t bring Hamels here to win the regular season. To steal a line from the great Jake Taylor, Daniels brought him here “to win the whole [expletive] thing.”
A staff ace, like Hamels, is needed to do just that.
After all, If your ace isn’t in full stride by the time October rolls around… Do you have an ace at all?
*The author of this article understands that a postseason berth is not a given. The author of this article further understands that the rotation is not the only necessary piece to a successful World Series title. Please do not @ me.