Cole Hamels is good. We all knew that when the Rangers made the deal for him last July. Locally, though, I don’t think any of us realized just how good he really was. Hamels has been everything Jon Daniels had hoped for and more. A legitimate front of the rotation starter – maybe not an “ace” but a 1A – and more importantly, the anchor for what has been a really solid starting rotation for the Texas Rangers.
Once in Texas, Hamels averaged 6.93 innings per start in 2015. He held opposing hitters to a .253 average in those twelve games and averaged 8.43 k/9, which would have put him between Dallas Keuchel and Felix Hernandez for the season. Think about that for a moment. That’s strong company for a guy coming to the AL and pitching in what is still considered a hitters’ park. And we can debate the value of pitching wins all day, but in a tight pennant race last year, Hamels went 9-0 for the Rangers. With the division race decided by two games, it’s easy for me to say, Hamels was the difference in the American League West in 2015.
Now in 2016, Hamels is once again the rock of this rotation. He’s averaging 6.17 innings per start, solid, but a number that will climb most likely as pitchers gain their strength as the season progresses. More importantly, he’s holding hitters to a .217 average, while averaging 8.75k/9, putting him ahead of Gerrit Cole and Chris Sale currently. And several spots ahead of Zach Greinke and his gigantic contract. This has helped him move to 5-0 on this early season, but maybe more telling, in six games he’s also had two wins after team losses the night before. Huge for a team this early in the season, where losses sting more than they will in June, and a losing streak can seem like the end of hope. And even bigger after your starter gives up eleven earned runs the night before, as was the case when Cole took the mound Friday. Hamels still remains undefeated as a member of the Texas Rangers at 14-0.
Hamels did not come cheap, as the Rangers gave up three prime prospects. We will keep an eye on Alfaro, Williams, and Jared Eickhoff for years to come, but the Rangers system is deep, and prospects are a commodity like no other for a team against a self-imposed salary cap. The ability to move Matt Harrison’s contract, coupled with Hamel’s affordable salary of around $20 million a year – the Phils paid $9.5 mil towards the contract – the next three seasons and an option at $20 million in 2019, Cole Hamels is not only looking more like a bargain as every fifth day passes, but one of Jon Daniels’ best moves.
The rotation has started strong for the Rangers but has shown some cracks as of late. It’s a long season and a lot can happen, a lot can change. Yu Darvish is close to game ready, and will do nothing but help a contending club. AJ Griffin is already fighting a shoulder injury and will miss two weeks. Derek Holland and Martin Perez continue to fight their way back from injury. There will be some moves, demotions, promotions, trades, etc. The one constant the Rangers can count on is Hamels; who’s been more than good.
He’s been a Stone-Cole lock.