There is no question that the Phillies could not and would not have won the World Series last year without Cole Hamels. That's a fact. Hamels was the workhorse of the staff, and he was nothing short of spectacular in the post season. He threw 267 innings last year, more than any other season in his career.
Perhaps those were too many innings. Perhaps there were too many off-season distractions (Hamels has admitted as much). Perhaps those distractions caused him to come to spring training unprepared for the season (again, he has admitted as much). I don't know what it is now, but he has been extremely inconsistent. When he's on, he's very, very good. But on days like today, when he consistently kept getting his pitches up, he gets hit hard. And this year, he has gotten hit hard more often than not.
So far in his career, Hamels has had lots of comparisons to all-time Phillies great Steve "Lefty" Carlton, picture above. Both are southpaws, both are tall and lanky, and both throw hard to hit pitches--for Carlton it was his slider, and for Hamels, his change-up. Carlton was clearly the ace of the Phillies' staff, and Hamels is supposed to be. Those are all good comparisons. However, there is one comparison that scares me.
After losing to the Giants today, his line looks something like this: 7-6, with a nasty 4.68 ERA. Last year, of course, he was 14-10, with a 3.09 ERA, a full 1.5 runs per 9 innings less than his ERA so far this year. I wonder if I am the only one that sees parallels in Hamels' performance this year and with Steve Carlton's in 1973. In 1972, Carlton went 27-10, with a 1.97 ERA in a staggering 346.1 innings, with 310 strikeouts. The next year, after winning the Cy Young Award and being feted around the country, Carlton was 13-20, with an ERA of 3.90, and only 223 strikeouts in 293.1 innings. The Lefty of 1973 was definitely not the Lefty of 1972. He didn't really return to form until 1976.
Let's hope that, at least in this sense, Cole Hamels is not Steve Carlton. All I can say is that it's a good thing that Ruben Amaro went out and got Cliff Lee, because I doubt that the Phillies would have had much of a real chance of making it past the first round of the playoffs with Hamels at the top of the rotation unless he really gets his act together between now and the end of the season.