Cole Hamels Is Early Season Cy Young Contender

Apr 4, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /
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Cole Hamels made his fourth start of the season last night and pitched extremely well continuing his push for an AL Cy Young.

We’re only two weeks into the 2016 season but end of season awards predictions are already being made and the Texas Rangers have a pitcher ranked among the best in the American League. According to ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor, Hamels is third on the list behind Chicago White Sox players Chris Sale and Mat Latos both of who are having impressive seasons of their own.

Hamels has now made four starts this season with decisions coming in three of those games, all wins which is second on the list to only Chris Sale who is 4-0. In those four starts, Hamels has thrown 25 innings, second to only Chris Sale among ESPN’s top 10. He’s given up seven earned runs in this time giving him a 2.52 ERA to go along with his 23 strikeouts, also second to only Chris Sale.

Watching Cole Hamels pitch this season, he’s done much better in limiting run damage against opponents. His hit totals are on pace to be well below his normal career average and his strikeout rate is on par with his normal career production. Hamels has been a bit more prone to the walk this season as through his first four starts he’s averaging four walks per nine innings pitched but seems to be missing bats more in conjunction with that. Heading into the season, few had Cole Hamels among the contenders (except for us here at Nolan Writin’) but his small sample size shows that he is as good as any other starter in the Majors right now.

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In his first full season with Texas, first and foremost, expect his record to be much better than it generally was with the Philadelphia Phillies. With the Phillies, Hamels had a .559 win percentage despite his 3.29 ERA over his time there. This had more to do with the dismal ball club that was the Phillies and less to do with Hamels ability to put his team in a spot to win. Another piece of evidence of this is that in his limited time with Texas where he’s made 16 starts, Hamels is 10-1 to go along with a 3.41 ERA. Prior to the start of the season, both one of our writers, Reagan Brown, and myself, predicted that Hamels would win 18 games this season which would be the most he’d ever won in a singular season. This isn’t a stretch because of the Rangers being a team that rewards pitchers who keeps games close and winnable, i.e. Colby Lewis winning 17 games in 2015.

I fully expect for there to be bumps along the way, but Cole Hamels winning 18 games this year is not a stretch by any means. He averages 34 starts a season getting 24 decisions along the way. His decision rate should increase as he’ll likely leave games with the lead more often and the Rangers have the bullpen to keep leads intact. He averages 14 wins per year which means he would only need 4 more wins this season than his career average to reach that mark. At this point, 18 wins is a good possibility as a season total. However, it would not be a stretch to venture and guess that Hamels may be a 20 game winner in 2016 considering how he’s pitching. He’s now won 10 straight as a Rangers pitcher and that trend does not show signs of slowing down anytime soon.

…it would not be a stretch to venture and guess that Hamels may be a 20 game winner in 2016 considering how he’s pitching.

Regardless of whether Hamels gets the postseason honor or not, Texas Rangers fans have plenty to be excited about with him headlining the rotation that is still Yu Darvish-less for the meantime. Once Darvish returns, the Rangers easily are in consideration for the best starting rotation in the American League and possibly Major League Baseball as a whole. In 15 games started this year, Texas Rangers starters are 7-1 with a combined 3.33 ERA and batters are hitting just .235 against them. Despite leading the league in homeruns allowed, the pitching staff has done a good job limiting damage and putting the Rangers in a place to win.

In addition to Hamels, Texas Rangers pitcher, Derek Holland, has cracked ESPN’s early season top 10. Holland currently is ranked 9th with a 2.70 ERA in three starts with a 2-0 record.

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