They say the best judge of a pitcher's stuff is the type of swings that stuff produces. Well, the first two starts of the season, Cole Hamels' stuff has been filthy. Of the 26 hitters he faced in Sunday afternoon's 8-2, 10 struck out. Nearly half of the 21 outs he produced were strikeouts.
Forget the other aspects of his pitching line -- seven innings, six hits, two runs, one walk -- and focus on the strikeouts. Against the Marlins on Monday, he struck out nine in 5 1/3 innings, meaning he already has 19 strikeouts in just 12 1/3 innings of work this season. That's a ridiculous average of 13.9 striketouts-per-nine innings.
To put that in perspective, here are Hamels' K/9 rates since his rookie season:
By the end of Sunday's game, Hamels was tied for the National League lead in strikeouts. The fact that the player he was tied with was Aaron Harang is a pretty good indication that it is still early. At the same time, it is not out of the question that we see his strikeout rate jump considerably this season. In C.C. Sabathia's first five big league seasons, he averaged a solid but not stellar 7.0 strikeouts-per-nine. Since then, he has averaged 8.1 strikeouts-per-nine. Hamels is in his third season with a cutter. Yesterday, the pitch sat 89 to 90 miles per hour throughout the start. He is still growing as a pitcher. As good as he has been for the last two years, he still has room to improve.
As he showed yesterday, the journey is going to be fun to watch.