Cole Hamels was 10-11 with a 4.32
ERA during the regular season. His 6.75 ERA over three starts during
the postseason was enough for Charlie Manuel to opt for Pedro Martinez
in Thursday’s Game 2 rather than last season’s World Series MVP,
prompting many to wonder, “What’s wrong with King Cole?” The truth? Not
as much as you might think.
To start with, some might be
surprised to learn that his peripheral stats have remained fairly
stable, if not better in some cases, than 2008:
2008: 7.76 K/9, 2.10 BB/9, 1.11 HR/9
2009: 7.81 K/9, 2.00 BB/9, 1.12 HR/9
While his peripheral stats have
remained constant, Hamels has been especially unlucky in BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play), seeing
it jump from .270 in 2008 to .325 this season. Thus, while his ERA
inflated to 4.32 from 3.09 in 2008, his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is exactly the same over the past two seasons (3.72).
Most pitchers are victims or
beneficiaries of fluctuations in BABIP from year-to-year, but Manuel
thinks the league has become more familiar with Hamels’ repertoire. His
curveball has been largely unreliable in 2009 (-4.5 RAA/100, according to Fangraphs), allowing opposing batters to sit on his fastball-changeup combination.
“I don’t know if the league has figured him out,” Manuel said. “I think
the league knows more about him and sits on his fastball or change-up.
They can spend a whole at-bat totally looking for that pitch.’‘
Hamels plans to add a fourth
pitch during the offseason, and he needs to look no further than his
opponent Andy Pettitte on Saturday in order to see why. As Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley
pointed out earlier today, he has a varied arsenal of pitches to rely on from game-to-game. While a fourth pitch will have to wait until next season, don’t be surprised to see his luck finally even out in Game 3.
After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.
The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).
Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.
With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.
Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.
With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:
So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).
Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.