Paul Hagen: Tipping or not, Phillies starter Hamels still struggles

Cole Hamels denies that he used a larger glove last night because he had been tipping pitches.
Cole Hamels denies that he used a larger glove last night because he had been tipping pitches.
Posted: October 22, 2009

THERE HAVE been plenty of theories about why Cole Hamels hasn't been as dominant this October as he was a year ago.

That he isn't throwing enough curveballs. That the birth of his first child has disrupted his routine. That he never completely bounced back from logging more than 260 innings last season.

Here's one more: Sources indicated that the Phillies were concerned that the lefthander has been tipping his pitches by the placement of his wrist. As a result, he was supposed to use a larger model of his black TPK glove for his start in Game 5 last night. The idea was that it would help disguise the telltale sign.

Phillies personnel wouldn't confirm the switch. "But that would make sense," one insider allowed with a knowing smile.

Afterward, Hamels denied that he had made an equipment change. "Nope. Same glove," he said.

While it was impossible to say with 100 percent certainty, it appeared that the glove he used last night was slightly longer than the one he'd used in recent starts.

There is some anecdotal evidence that makes the theory plausible. In his regular-season career against the Dodgers, Hamels is 2-0 with a 1.50 earned run average in four starts. That does not include last year's National League Championship Series, when he went 2-0, 1.93 against Los Angeles.

In his Game 1 start at Dodger Stadium a week ago today, though, he went only 5 1/3 innings while allowing four runs on eight hits.

True, anybody can have a bad game. But Hamels also lasted only five innings against the Rockies in the first round and was charged with four runs. The pitcher who was voted Most Valuable Player of both the NLCS and World Series last October went into last night's start with a 6.97 postseason ERA.

And postseason is the time of year when clubs send multiple scouts to check out possible playoff opponents and literally do a frame-by-frame analysis of each pitcher, hoping to come up with a tidbit that would give them an edge.

If tipping pitches has been Hamels' problem, though, the glove he used apparently wasn't the solution. He lasted only 4 1/3 innings while giving up three runs on five hits, and continued to have trouble commanding his fastball and throwing sharp breaking pitches to lefthanded hitters.

The Phillies were able to overlook that while they were spraying champagne after last night's 10-4 clinching win. So far, his ineffectiveness hasn't cost them. But they can't be sure what they'll get out of him against the Yankees or Angels in the next round, and that's a real concern.

"I know I haven't been able to do as much as I'd like," he said in the middle of the celebration. "It's frustrating."

Did you notice

* That Dodgers manager Joe Torre, with nothing left to play for if his team didn't win last night, had lefthander Clayton Kershaw and righthander Chad Billingsley warming up behind starter Vicente Padilla in the second inning? Padilla was knocked out without retiring a batter in the fourth.

* That the crowd seemed to assume that the Yankees are next? Signs like "Spank the Yanks" and "Bring on the Bronx" sprouted in the seats when the game ended. Of course, New York still has to finish off the Angels before a Phillies-Yankees World Series becomes a reality.

Rollins' walkoff history

Long before Jimmy Rollins electrified Phillies fans everywhere with his dramatic walkoff double Monday night, when he played for Double A Reading in 1999, he was already honing the ability to rise to the occasion.

R-Phils director of communications Rob Hackash remembered that the young J-Roll hit four walkoff homers that season . . . and that three of them came against the Orioles' Bowie Baysox farm team, which just happened to have a catcher named Jayson Werth on the roster.

So they were probably the two least surprised people in Citizens Bank Park when Rollins delivered in Game 4 of the NLCS. In fact, Werth already was plotting the best route to the celebration he was certain was about to occur as Rollins stepped in against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

"I was standing in the dugout and I kept saying, 'I'm going to go over the bench, over the railing. Over the bench, over the railing. Over the bench and over the railing.' And as soon as he made contact, I went over the bench, over the railing and onto the field. So I was ready for it, and J-Roll didn't disappoint," he said.

Werth said he clearly remembers the damage his future teammate did against Bowie that year.

"In fact, when [former general manager] Pat Gillick came to my house before the '07 season, that was one of the things we talked about. We were talking about the club, and I was asking him about the guys and I told him about that.

"It was definitely one of those things that has stuck out in my mind, to this day. As I remember it, it was a four-game series, and he either hit a walkoff home run or a walkoff double or something like that to beat us every night.

Well, according to Hackash's research, the homers came on July 10 with Werth catching, one on July 28 with Werth at DH and the other on Aug. 25 (with Werth watching from the bench).

Details, details. The point is that a decade ago, Rollins already was showing the ability to rise to the occasion.

"Ever since then, I kind of looked at Jimmy Rollins in that light," Werth said. "And the other night was another testament to that."

Numerology

* 2: Times in the last three games that the Phillies scored 10 or more runs. In the previous 81 postseason games in franchise history they'd done that just twice.

* 7.38: Dodgers' NLCS earned run average. During the regular season, Los Angeles led the majors with a 3.41 staff ERA.

* 13: Years since a National League team successfully defended the pennant. In fact, only three NL teams have done it in the last 30 years: Atlanta in 1992 and 1996 and, now, the Phillies.

The blew route (cont.)

Third-base umpire Tim McClelland admitted making two glaring mistakes during Tuesday night's Yankees-Angels game, continuing what has been a string of questionable decisions during the postseason.

Lamell McMorris, spokesman for the World Umpires Association, issued the following statement yesterday:

"We understand that throughout this season's MLB playoffs there have been several controversial calls made by Major League umpires. Major League Baseball selected these umpires to work the postseason based on merit and their outstanding performance during the regular season. The 68 Major League Baseball umpires are the best in the world, but they are also human. They will continue, as they do every day, to go out on the field and attempt to make every correct call possible."

Send e-mail to hagenp@phillynews.com.

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