Hamels trying to avoid frustration with team's struggles

Posted: June 27, 2014

COLE HAMELS got accustomed to the unfortunate routine a year ago.

In his first 12 starts of 2013, the Phillies lost 11 times. Hamels was headed down a similar path this season - the Phils lost seven of his first eight starts - when he figured out a way to buck the trend.

For three consecutive starts, Hamels didn't allow a run. The Phillies won all three games.

But his hard luck returned Saturday, when he dueled with Adam Wainwright into the eighth inning before ending up on the wrong end of a 4-1 defeat.

Hamels' frustration came to a head that day, when he declined to speak to the media for the second time in the last month. "Nothing good was going to come out of that," he said 4 days later.

Hamels was in a much better mood yesterday afternoon. He knows there are a lot of things he cannot control through the course of an inning, or a start, or a season.

Hamels wasn't really surprised when he was told that, since the beginning of last season, the Phillies were 17-28 in his starts, despite his 3.37 ERA in those 45 games.

"The team hasn't won in general since last year, and we still don't have a winning record," said Hamels, who will make his 13th start of the season tonight against Miami. "I know if I'm the one that loses and the next four guys win, I'll be the happiest guy in the world. But it hasn't been like that for the last 2 years."

But, Hamels was asked, when you're doing your job, and constantly on the losing end when your team isn't scoring runs, doesn't that frustration boil over?

"I can't control it," Hamels said of the team's record in his starts. "I think maybe sometimes when it gets down to it and you look at the way people prepare, and maybe the lack of preparation. And you really can't just single out certain people because they play every day. I don't know what they have going on at home, or if they're banged up.

"You try to motivate guys as much as possible. But I'm only once every 5 days and I'm giving it everything I have, because I don't get second [chances], I only get 35 games a year and I train pretty much 12 months a year. So it's the name of the game."

Hamels, 2-4 with a 2.76 ERA in 12 starts this season, also knows he's not alone.

He mentioned San Francisco Giants righthander Matt Cain, who had a 3.17 ERA in four seasons from 2008-11 but never won more than 14 games in any of those years, and averaged 12 wins per season. The Giants went 60-54 in his starts over that period.

He brought up teammate Cliff Lee, who didn't win his first start in 2012 until July 4, his 14th start of the season. Since the beginning of last season, Lee has a 2.94 ERA in 41 starts and the Phillies have gone 21-20.

In recent years, individual pitching wins have been identified as a largely faulty statistic, since it relies on run support and the dependability of a team's bullpen, among other factors. In addition to ERA, statistics such as strikeout-to-walk ratio and WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) are more accurate indicators of a pitcher's individual success.

But when a pitcher is among the best of the best in the game, you'd think the team wins would rack up.

Since the beginning of last season, the Dodgers are 27-17 when Clayton Kershaw starts a game, the Cardinals are 35-14 when Adam Wainwright starts, and the Giants are 26-21 when Madison Bumgarner starts.

While each of those three pitchers has a lower ERA than Hamels in that time, Hamels certainly can be mentioned in the same breath. In the last five seasons (beginning in 2010, minimum 800 innings), only five pitchers in baseball have an ERA lower than Hamels' 3.10 - Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Lee, Jered Weaver and Bumgarner - and only seven have pitched as many innings.

"I do everything I can that day [I start]. And the next day, I'm doing everything I can for that next start," Hamels said. "It's funny - I talked to Wainwright before our game . . . And he was asking me what I'm doing the day before my starts, and I say I'm doing this because of this and he's, like, yeah, same here . . . So it's nice to know we have the same sort of routine, even though the results may vary. We're both doing everything right."

Wainwright has been luckier (pitching on a better team), and even Hamels acknowledges he's been better, too.

"That [3.37] is a good ERA," he said, referencing his ERA since the beginning of last season. "But I'd still rather have a 2.00. When guys look at how they want to play and what kind of goals they have oriented, a 3.3 ERA is like failure. I want 2s. A 4? That's inexcusable. So, you know, that's the category I hold myself to."

Hamels can only hope the numbers will begin to take care of themselves, with his quality starts churning out team wins.

"[Jeff] Samardzija kind of has the same situation," Hamels said of the Cubs pitcher, who has a 2.53 ERA but has seen his team win only three of his 16 starts this season. "We just go out there - and I enjoy what I do. But it is a team game. and you want your teammates to play well. And sometimes the - I don't know - there's vocal leadership, and there's leading by example. Sometimes I try to lead by example, and it might not necessarily translate to maybe being more vocal with guys to up their game. But I think that's the part we have to learn.

"I mean, I have a lot of faith in the guys. They do want to win. And I can tell they want to win when I pitch, they say it and they let me know after the games or a couple days later. They want to win, it's just not turning out."


Cliff Lee will throw a live batting practice session before tomorrow's game against the Atlanta Braves. It will mark the fourth time Lee has pitched off the mound in the last 2 weeks. Lee, who has been on the DL with a left elbow strain since May 20, hopes to return in mid-July . . . After a perfect sixth inning on Tuesday night, lefty reliever Mario Hollands extended his scoreless streak to 15 2/3 innings. It was Hollands' 17th straight scoreless outing, which extended his franchise record for most consecutive scoreless appearances by a rookie reliever. The previous recordholders: Dick Farrell (14 games in 1957) and B.J. Rosenberg (14 games in 2013).

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