At the outset, it’s worth noting that Phillies manager Pete Mackanin is not saying that Cole Hamels is not good or that he’s not good enough to be a team’s number one starter. No, Mackanin was speaking about pitching in general and premised his comments by saying that there are probably fewer than ten “solid 1s” in all of baseball by his definition. When he’s talking about aces he means “the elite of the elite” not merely “a team’s number one starter.”
Still, these are interesting comments he had about former Phillies starter Cole Hamels:
“I don’t know if I’d call him a No. 1. He might be a No. 2. Those guys are elite. And I love Cole Hamels, don’t get me wrong. It’s debatable.”
Hamels may not be the first guy people name when they think of lights-out, dominant starters, but I think I’d put him in tier one. At the moment he’s in the top five in the American League in ERA and fewest walks among qualified starters. He’s in the top ten in strikeouts and wins. Overall he’s around top-15 this season in all of baseball in a lot of categories. Worth noting, of course, that Hamels ranks high on a year-in-year-out basis, while many of the people ahead of him by certain measures in any given year are flukes or dudes having career years. Hamels has been near the top of the heap every year since he debuted in 2006. Over those 11 seasons he’s fourth in innings pitched, third in strikeouts, third in WAR. Top 10 in just about anything else that matters.
I don’t know if Hamels would be my choice as a starter if Earth needed to win one baseball game against the Martians in order to save humanity. For that I’d pick a healthy Clayton Kershaw or maybe Madison Bumgarner on a day he woke up in a particularly bad mood. But I’d have Hamels on the roster for a series, I think. Either way, if we’re picking top ten in the game to qualify as an ace, I think Hamels qualifies.