By Barbara Harrison
So, how does Cole Hamels measure up against the other elite pitchers in the majors?
I mean, the trade deadline is just 27 days away, July 31, and Hamels is the bluest chip the Phillies to trade and get somep prospects in return on which whoever replaces the dead man walking Ruben Amaro Jr. as general manager.
Let’s start by measuring the Boston Red Sox’s clear No. 1 starter against Hamels, the best pitcher on the trade market.
This year’s Sox aren’t out of it yet but they’re not in it, either, and until they are we’re left with pastimes like this.
In measuring Clay Buchholz versus Hamels, the first thing to concede is that Hamels has clearly had the better career until this point. His greatest strength has been durability. He owns a career 3.49 FIP to Buchholz’s 3.92, which is a nice enough advantage before you consider that he’s thrown almost twice as many innings as Buchholz despite being only a year older. Hamels is nearing 2,000 career innings on the bump; Buchholz only passed 1,000 earlier this month. This is how Hamels’ career WAR (via FanGraphs) sits above 38 and Buchholz is just above 13.
As the saying goes, health is a skill, and it’s one Buchholz clearly does not have. That could be construed as a plus for Buchholz, given the potential for as-yet-untapped electric innings in his arm and the fact that Hamels is “due” for an injury.
Still, it’s encouraging for the Red Sox that Buchholz and Hamels have thrown basically the same number of innings this season, and Buchholz has been better. Their ERA/FIP/xFIP lines are similar enough to potentially neutralize this fact, but I trust your interpretation to be as kind as mine to Clay:
• Hamels: 3.26 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 3.28 xFIP, 1.7 WAR
• Buchholz: 3.48 ERA, 2.67 FIP, 3.19 xFIP, 2.7 WAR
You don’t even need to play the “take out the bad start” game with Buchholz for these numbers to be stunning. With the obviously caveat that, yes, it’s a half-season of baseball, here’s an incomplete list of players who have been better than Hamels and worse than Buchholz, as judged by WAR. Spoiler: They’re really good.
• Zack Greinke
• Dallas Keuchel
• Madison Bumgarner
• Gerrit Cole
• Carlos Carrasco
• Jordan Zimmermann
• Michael Wacha
• Matt Harvey
• Johnny Cueto
• Felix Hernandez
Combine that crazy list, which includes a King, a Dark Knight and a World Series MVP, with Buchholz’s performance last Monday night in Toronto against the Jays — that most thumping of teams — and you can see Clay’s high-water mark. Is it higher than Hamels’? Probably not. Hamels himself is a World Series MVP, and for the dizzying highs of Buch’s career, Hamels has been slowly raising the tide for damn near a decade.
The winner here is Hamels, but there are no losers, either. They’d make a great one-two punch in any order, that’s for sure.