Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cole Hamels and fastball velocity

Velocity, to me, is a lot like Paris Hilton. Attractive? Sure. Rich? Absolutely. But, in the end, wouldn't you rather spend your Friday night curling up to Rachel McAdams than worrying about your girlfriend winding up face down in a drainage ditch after an all-night bender?

Cole Hamels and fastball velocity

Cole Hamels gave up only two hits and one walk in nine innings pitched.   (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Cole Hamels gave up only two hits and one walk in nine innings pitched. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer) Daily News/Inquirer

Velocity, to me, is a lot like Paris Hilton. Attractive? Sure. Rich? Absolutely. But, in the end, wouldn't you rather spend your Friday night curling up to Rachel McAdams than worrying about your girlfriend winding up face down in a drainage ditch after an all-night bender?

Let me try to explain:

Baseball is an American game, and Americans like things big and loud and fast. A quarter pound of beef on a bun is not big enough for us, so we doubled it. Twelve ounces of soda is not enough for us, so we made it 20. And, yeah, the environment is nice and all, but who really wants to drive a Prius over a Hummer?

But unless you know how to control the trappings of the American lifestyle, you end up overweight with high cholesterol and a hole in the ozone.

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Kind of the same thing with velocity: consistency and control are much more important than astronomical radar readings (Remember that Jonathan Broxton fastball that landed in the left field seats at Dodger Stadium last October? It was clocked at 95).

Which brings us to Cole Hamels. The young lefthander's struggles have been well-chronicled this season, which has prompted an influx of e-mail from amateur pitching coaches who have discovered the basis of his travails. They include, in no particlar order, his elbow, his mind, his pitching coach, his Sports Illustrated photo shoot, and his wife's reality television appearances.

But one e-mailer, a guy named James Moyer (no relation to you-know-who), has put his finger on a logical cause.

"He's dialed back his fastball to 90-91, he's locating it better, and its made his changeup much better because the separation is only 10-12 mph, which is where it needs to be," Mr. Moyer wrote after Hamels' complete game shut-out last night.

It is a sentiment that has been echoed at times by pitching coach Rich Dubee: Hamels velocity has never been the problem. I don't think it is as simple as the e-mailer puts it, Hamels taking a little bit off of his fastball and re-discovering his marbles. But I think it does come down to consistency: When Hamels' velocity is consistent, it is an indication that the rest of his game his consistent as well. He isn't battling himself on the mound or straying from the smooth mechanics that have brought him thus far. He is controlling his pitches, rather than throwing them.

Because I had some time to waste this morning while waiting for US Airways to drop off the suitcase they lost last Friday on my return trip from Pittsburgh, I went back to Hamels' postseason run last season and jotted down the velocity on each of the fastballs he threw. I did the same with last night's fastballs, and the fastballs from his rough outing against the same Giants in San Francisco on Aug. 2. I'm not going to pretend to know exactly how to interpret what they mean. But take a gander at them, and see if you can make some sense of them.

 Vs. Giants, Sept. 1 (9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO)

Fastballs: 

89, 90, 90, 91, 91, 90, 90 (Garko double), 90, 89, 91, 90, 87, 88, 89 (F7), 89, 89, 90, 90 (K), 90, 89, 88, 88, 89, 89 (6-3), 89 (F8, belt-hi FB right down the middle, Hamels pats self on chest to say my bad), 90, 87, 88, 88, 89, 90, 91, 90, 91 (K), 90, 90 (K), 91, 89 (6-3), 89, 89, 91 (F8), 89, 90, 89, 89, 89, 90, 90, 91, 90 (6-3), 89, 89, 91, 90 (Walk), 89, 90, 90 (3P)

Range:

Less than 89: 7 (12.3 percent)

89-91: 50 (87.7 percent)

More than 91: 0 (0 percent)

at San Francisco, Aug. 2 (5 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO)

Fastballs

87, 90, 89, 90 (6-3), 90, 90, 92, 89 (single), 90, 90, 89 (RBI triple), 90, 91, 92 (P4), 91, 92, 93, 94, 89, 92, 93 (K), 92, 91, 92 (called K), 90, 92 (F9), 88, 90 (1-3), 89, 90, 90 (L5), 88, 89, 87 (5-3), 89, 87, 88, 90 (single), 90, 91 (2R double), 92, 92, 90, 92, 87, 86 (single), 89

Range

Less than 89: 8 (17.4 percent)

89-91: 25 (54.3 percent)

More than 91: 13 (28.3 percent)

NLDS Game 1 (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO)

Fastballs

90, 92, 93, 92, 90, 94, 87, 93, 90, 91, 92, 91, 90, 91, 93, 90, 91, 90, 89, 90, 87, 92, 91, 88, 91, 92, 91, 92, 88, 89, 88, 89, 89, 90, 91, 91, 89, 91, 90, 91, 91, 91, 91, 90, 86, 89, 87, 87, 88, 88, 90, 89

Range

Less than 89: 10 (19.6 percent)

89-91: 32 (62.8 percent)

More than 91: 9 (17.7 percent)

NLCS Game 1 (7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO)

Fastballs

90, 91, 92, 92, 92, 91, 89, 93, 92, 93, 93, 93, 94, 92, 92, 93, 91, 92, 92, 92, 91, 92, 93, 90, 89, 91, 90, 90, 91, 91, 90, 91, 91, 89, 91, 91, 91, 91, 91, 90, 91, 89, 89, 90, 88, 91, 91, 93, 92

Range

Less than 89: 1 (2 percent)

89-91: 29 (59.2 percent)

More than 91: 19 (38.8 percent)

World Series Game 1 (7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO)

Fastballs

88, 88, 88, 91, 91, 89, 88, 91, 92, 93, 91, 91, 94, 89, 90, 90, 88, 90, 91, 92, 92, 89, 89, 91, 91, 87, 88, 90, 89, 88, 89, 89, 91, 88, 89, 91, 89, 89, 89, 91, 90, 92, 92, 92, 90, 92, 86, 87, 88, 87, 88, 87

Range

Less than 89: 15 (28.9 percent)

89-91: 28 (53.9 percent)

More than 91: 9 (17.3 percent)

^

Quick piece of news: OF Michael Taylor and RHP Kyle Drabek have been named the recipients of the 2009 Paul Owens Award, given annually to the top position player and pitcher in the Phillies' system.
 

David Murphy Daily News Staff Writer
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