Last night was ugly. A 7-1 loss, at home, to a Mets team whom many believe will be among the NL's weakest. A six-run third inning, in which the Mets, for all intents and purposes, put the game out of the Phillies' reach. Phillies fans in attendance had to endure the cold, blustery weather, as well as a Phillies offense that scored only once (nine LOB). But there was no excuse for booing Cole Hamels last night.
At first glance, Cole Hamels' pitching line from Tuesday night doesn't seem too impressive. It doesn't look much better upon subsequent glances, either. Six runs allowed, over two and two-thirds innings? Hamels' results were not good.
But look a little deeper. All six of those runs scored in an ugly third inning. Hamels did not allow an extra-base hit. He allowed six singles; one didn't reach the outfield, and the rest barely got by the Phils' infield defense. If 3B Placido Polanco had another step of range, the Phillies likely escape the inning with minimal damage, if any. Remember the ninth inning on Opening Day, when the Phillies won by stringing together single-after-single? Last night's third inning was very similar. Call it "luck evening out", or "regression to the mean", the semantics are irrelevant. But it should have been obvious to anyone watching that Hamels' poor results were due, in part, to factors outside of his control.
Cole Hamels has been an outstanding pitcher. Actually, let me rephrase that. Hamels has been a consistently outstanding pitcher. In his five full seasons, he has xFIP'd between 3.28 and 3.73, placing Hamels among MLB's top pitchers. His ERAs and winning percentage have fluctuated a bit, but that's not as a result of poor "focus." Instead, it's merely a reflection of the limitations of those particular statistics. The 2011 Phillies' starting rotation is a great one, perhaps a historically great one. Hamels is likely only the third- or fourth-best current Phillies starter. However, we shouldn't forget that Hamels, despite his middling ranking in his own rotation, is still among MLB's best at his position.
Cole Hamels was the one of the most important players on the 2008 World Championship squad. His strong performance over the past two seasons has been integral to the franchise's continued success. It could be argued that Hamels should be immune from booing, considering his past contributions. Whether you support that argument, or not, one thing is quite apparent. Booing Hamels after his first outing of the season, an outing in which it was obvious that uncontrollable factors adversely affected the results, was unacceptable. Hamels deserved better last night.