Most of the love for Cole Hamels’ fourth start with the Cubs comes in the form of re-watching the insane volume of double plays that took place behind him. It was a very good night for Hamels, but it was a record night for the Cubs. Perspective gets a bit skewed.
To be very sure, when you’re netting five double plays behind you over seven innings, there is necessarily a lot that you aren’t controlling: the ball happens to go somewhere that a double play can be turned and hit hard enough to make that happen, the defense has to actually pull it off against runners that permit it to happen, and you have to have allowed baserunners in the first place.
But it’s not entirely luck, since the majority of double plays will be groundballs (which can obviously be influenced by the pitcher’s execution), and Hamels got a comical 76.5% of them last night. Plus, you’ve got to otherwise pitch well enough not to get yourself bounced from the game long before the double plays in the middle innings were possible. To that end, Hamels allowed just two walks and five hits, the latter being thanks to the piddly 16.7% hard contact he permitted. You have to go back to early May to find another start where he allowed so little hard contact.
That is to say, for all those double plays (which wiped some strikeout opportunities off the board – keep that in mind when judging his mere three strikeouts), Hamels really did pitch very well last night.
It continues the absurdly dominant stretch he’s had since joining the Cubs:
How good has Cole Hamels been with the Cubs?
In just FOUR starts, he's taken his ERA from 6% worse than league average to 10% *better* than league average. pic.twitter.com/hoAv9ccxRv
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) August 18, 2018
No one can or should say with confidence that Hamels will keep pitching like this, or even necessarily like a front half of the rotation arm. But the stuff has been there, the velocity has been there, and the track record is obviously there. It’s not as if we didn’t hope that he would get a boost from the combination of (1) pitching in front of a much better defense, (2) leaving the most homer-friendly home park in baseball, and (3) the invigoration of a playoff race.
So far, so very good.