Cole Hamels Arrives: What He Can Turn Around, What Hasn't Been Working, and Wanting to Be A Cub

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Cole Hamels Arrives: What He Can Turn Around, What Hasn’t Been Working, and Wanting to Be A Cub

Chicago Cubs

In the 11 games played since the beginning of the second half, the Chicago Cubs have allowed their opponents to score five or more runs on eight different occasions. Ouch. And that scoring all begins with the starting pitching.

In the last three days, alone, Jose Quintana has allowed six earned runs, Mike Montgomery has allowed five, and Tyler Chatwood has allowed four, though they are hardly the only ones to blame. In a spot start earlier this week, Luke Farrell gave up six earned runs, Jon Lester has already given up 8 earned runs, Kyle Hendricks has not yet made it out of the fifth inning in two tries after the break, and Yu Darvish has been on the disabled list since 1996.

Needless to say, the Cubs needed a change, an infusion of something, and thankfully, they got one in Cole Hamels. The Cubs new, veteran southpaw has joined the rotation – he’s making his first start on Wednesday – and hopes to provide a stabilizing force to a team that should otherwise be dreaming of the postseason. He shouldn’t be looked at as a savior for the entire pitching staff, mind you, but if he can just be a serviceable 4/5-typer starter, that would feel like a Godsend for how things have been lately.

Watch as he arrives in Chicago, discusses his plans, reactions, and much more:

The short version? Hamels sounds excited to be on “Theo’s” side for once – heh – because he’s seen and competed against the talent the Cubs’ boss has acquired for years, and has always been impressed with what he puts together.

“Just being able to see the talent over here, facing them, I’m glad I don’t have to face them now,” said Hamels. “The guys they’ve added on with free agency and some recent trades, they’ve got such a great group of guys. I feel lucky to be a part of it.”

Hamels added that he’s always wanted to be a Cub, and it sounds like a lot of our stories: “When I’d get home from school, WGN [TV] was turned on and the Cubs were playing.”

On his recent struggles, Hamels had some thoughts and revelations: “July was not a fun month … I’ve known this whole year I was struggling mechanically. It was a struggle to try to get right, and fortunately, you keep going out there and I wasn’t able to make the necessary corrections until recently. I’ve been healthy the whole time. It’s just a matter of trying to be in sync and letting the results happen.”

The good news is that, at least according to the man, himself, Hamels has been healthy all season. Obviously he’s healthy right now – the Cubs would’ve discovered something before a trade went down if there was something to discover – but I’m glad to hear that there was no “Well, I was dealing with this shoulder thing earlier, etc.” The other good news, I suppose, is that mechanical issues are often fixable. Obviously, some issues are easier/quicker fixes than others, but hopefully, a veteran like Hamels is capable of making those changes in-season. For what it’s worth, it sounds like he’s pinpointed his struggles down to his two-seam fastball and his inability to locate it: “Most of the time they were getting hits, it was two-seams that were going back over the middle.”

For what it’s worth, Pitch Info has Hamels’ cutter at two miles per hour lower than his career average and about 1.5 miles per hour lower than the mark he posted last season. His four-seamer, meanwhile, is right in line with his career averages and his sinker is within a MPH difference. Maybe there’s something here, but we’ll have to dig in deeper after we see him in action.

And who knows? Maybe he’ll pull a Justin Verlander: “I think on this team, you get a little bit of revitalized energy. There’s something you’re playing for, and I think that takes into effect and kind of ups your game. The moment you go to a different league, it’s a clean slate.”

Moving on from Hamels’ own comments, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein had some nice things to say, as well, and it mostly amounted to looking beyond the very recent struggles to the overall body of work: “He’s a proven excellent starter for a long time and has been through the wars. He’s the type of guy that can really get rejuvenated coming from the situation he’s in now into a pennant race, into this clubhouse, into Wrigley Field.”

Former teammate Yu Darvish also threw his hat in the ring, suggesting that the bigger the game, the better Hamels gets. Given how many big games are coming up for the Cubs, let’s hope that’s true.

So whether it’s a mechanical change, and improvement in the location/velocity of his two-seamer, some natural rejuvenation from a young competitive team, or the added adrenaline bonus of big games, Cole Hamels is coming to Chicago with some reasonably big expectations and a lot of work to do. With any luck, he’ll experience a short-term turnaround that can help the Cubs push down the stretch and deep into October.

Read more from other teammates, front office members, coaches, and players at The Athletic, ESPN, and Cubs.com.



Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami