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.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.