Saturday, October 25, 2014

Gettin' Iggy With It: Up At The Crack of Ass To Talk About Trading One

"Hey, Cole Hamels!  What's that on your lip?"

Good afternoon, everyone!  This is Iggy Beartran, sister to Studious Metsimus roving reporter Joey Beartran and expert on all things Cole Hamels.  Normally, I like to sleep in on Saturdays, but upon hearing yesterday's news about the Phillies looking to trade their resident ass, I had to wake up early to discuss this news with our readers (assuming any of you are awake at this time).

On Friday, several reports had Hamels updating his no-trade clause, which currently includes 20 teams he cannot be dealt to without his consent (the Mets are on this list because he knows Citi Field is a "no ass zone").  Interim team president Pat Gillick acknowledged that he doesn't expect the Phillies to be competitive for at least three seasons.  Therefore, keeping a $24 million a year pitcher until the final years of his contract when he's in his mid-30s and not as tradeable - well, that would be (ahem) phoolish.  Almost as foolish as the team giving him a six-year, $144 million deal to begin with.  Not to mention Ryan Howard's albatross of a contract, which still has two years and $50 million left on it, plus a $10 million buyout for the 2017 season.

Let's look at what the Phillies' version of the "core four" has done over the past few years and see how tradeable those players are.

Jimmy Rollins

Jimmy Rollins is entering the final year of his four-year, $44 million contract.  His career numbers are excellent (479 doubles, 111 triples, 216 homers, 453 stolen bases, 1,325 runs scored), but his best seasons are behind him.  Way, way behind him.  Rollins has batted over .252 just once in the last six seasons and has a .318 on-base percentage and .397 slugging percentage over that same time period.  That means Ruben Tejada has a better chance of reaching base (Tejada has a .328 OBP in five seasons as a Met) and Daniel Murphy can outslug the former NL MVP (Murphy has a lifetime .419 slugging percentage in six seasons despite never hitting more than 13 homers over a full season).

Oh, and did I mention that Rollins has made the third-most outs in the National League since 2009?  I didn't?  Well, I am now.  In fact, let's compare him to some of those other "out-makers".

Player Outs Made From To Age G PA AB R H 2B HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
Hunter Pence 2812 2009 2014 26-31 953 4056 3701 537 1042 183 143 537 .282 .338 .464 .803
Brandon Phillips 2703 2009 2014 28-33 877 3794 3468 482 960 180 100 470 .277 .326 .424 .750
Jimmy Rollins 2625 2009 2014 30-35 839 3724 3359 480 845 172 91 343 .252 .318 .397 .714
Justin Upton 2510 2009 2014 21-26 883 3745 3291 540 919 181 147 482 .279 .357 .482 .839
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/25/2014.

From 2009 to 2014, the top four out-makers in the National League include Hunter Pence, Brandon Phillips, Justin Upton and Rollins.  Rollins has put himself on this list despite playing the fewest games of the foursome and having the fewest plate appearances, at-bats, runs scored, hits, doubles, homers and runs batted in.  He also has the lowest batting average (by far), on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.  And most importantly, Rollins is the oldest player in the out-making firm of Pence, Phillips, Upton and Rollins.

If any team wants a soon-to-be 36-year-old shortstop who can learn a thing or two about reaching base from Ruben Tejada and slugging from Daniel Murphy, and who's only consistent about one thing at his advanced age - making outs - then Rollins is the man that team should target.  The bottom line is that Rollins is practically untradeable, especially if his decline continues in 2015.

Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard was once known for being one of the most feared hitters in the league, averaging 44 HR and 133 RBI from 2006 to 2011.  But beginning in 2012 (the first season of his five-year, $125 million contract), Howard has been known for a few "s"-words - strikeouts, Subway sandwiches and suckitude.

Over the past three seasons, Howard has averaged 101 games played per year due to an assortment of injuries, but that hasn't stopped him from striking out at an alarming rate.  Howard has whiffed 128 times per season since 2012 despite missing 182 games.  He has also averaged 16 homers and 65 RBI per year since 2012, and hit just 23 homers in 2014 despite being healthy all season (153 games played).  Howard had a career-low .380 slugging percentage in 2014 and led the majors in strikeouts with 190.  That's what $25 million a year buys the Phillies these days.

But hey, at least that kind of green can buy Howard all the Subway sandwiches he can eat (or are those called hoagies in Philadelphia?).

(GIF courtesy of Bill Baer at Crashburn Alley)

Chase Utley

In 2014, Chase Utley played 150+ games for the first time since 2009, but his final numbers were nowhere near what he produced in the Phillies' last pennant-winning season.  In 2009, Utley produced a .282/.397/.508 slash line, hit 31 homers (his third 30-homer campaign) and set new career highs with 23 stolen bases and 88 walks.  Five years later, Utley's first injury-free season since 2009 saw him produce a .270/.339/.407 slash line, 11 home runs, 10 stolen bases and just 53 walks.

Looking at Utley's five-year peak from 2005 to 2009 and comparing that to his last five years shows that Utley is a shadow of his former self.

  • 2005-09: 151 games, .301/.388/.535, 39 doubles, 29 HR, 101 RBI, 111 runs scored
  • 2010-14: 117 games, .270/.355/.435, 23 doubles, 13 HR, 60 RBI, 65 runs scored

Because of Utley's injury-free season in 2014, his $10 million salary in 2015 jumps up to $15 million, as there was a clause in his contract that guaranteed the 50% increase if he did not spend time on the disabled list with a knee injury in 2014.  A similar campaign will cause a $15 million option to kick in for 2016.  The same option applies to the 2017 and 2018 seasons.  Utley will earn $15 million per year if he collects 500 or more plate appearances in his previous campaign.  For the record, Utley played in 115 games in 2010 and 131 games in 2013, but still reached 500 plate appearances in both seasons.  In other words, the Phillies might be rooting for a long stint on the disabled list for their second baseman just to get out of a contract that could pay Utley $60 million between now and his age 39 season in 2018.

How are the Phillies going to be able to trade a guy who hasn't had a great season since 2009 to a team that would have to pay him top dollar if he stays on the field?  Utley's staying, for better or for worse.  Probably for worse.

Cole Hamels

And that brings us back to Cole Hamels.  The smiling ass still has four years and $96 million left on a contract that will pay him until he's 34, which means he'll be younger at the end of the deal than Rollins, Howard and Utley are right now.

As much as Hamels sucks against the Mets (ha, ha!), he is very good against everyone else.  In 2014, Hamels produced a career-best 2.46 ERA, reaching 200 innings for the sixth time in seven seasons.  Over the last five years, Hamels has averaged a 3.00 ERA, 1.119 WHIP and 204 strikeouts per season.  He is one of six pitchers to have 1,000 or more strikeouts since 2010.  The others are Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and David Price.  You probably recognize those names as pitchers who have won the Cy Young Award.  In fact, there are only three pitchers in all of baseball who have produced an ERA of 3.00 or lower, a WHIP not exceeding 1.12 and 1,000 strikeouts over the last five seasons.  Those pitchers are Kershaw, Hernandez and Hamels.

In other words, Cole Hamels might be an ass, but he's a mighty fine ass.

And this is a mighty fine picture of Cole Hamels.

Cole Hamels is just 30 years old (he'll be 31 in December).  Unlike his older homegrown teammates, Hamels is still quite productive, meaning he's actually earning his exorbitant salary.  But all of his quality starts have done little to help the Phillies win.  Over the last two seasons, Hamels has allowed two runs or fewer in 39 starts.  The Phillies lost 18 of those games.

Here is a list of every pitcher since 1901 who did not reach double digits in victories during a year in which he made at least 30 starts and produced a sub-2.50 ERA.

Cole Hamels 2014 2.46 30 9 30 PHI NL 9 .500 204.2 176 60 56 59 198 .235 .296 .345 .641
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/25/2014.

Not exactly a long list, is it?  In fact, since the advent of divisional play in 1969, only two pitchers have come close to matching what Hamels did, and both names might look familiar to fans of National League baseball in New York.

Cole Hamels 2014 2.46 30 9 30 PHI NL 9 .500 204.2 176 60 56 59 198 .235 .296 .345 .641
Matt Harvey 2013 2.27 26 9 24 NYM NL 5 .643 178.1 135 46 45 31 191 .209 .248 .282 .530
Craig Swan 1978 2.43 28 9 27 NYM NL 6 .600 207.1 164 62 56 58 125 .219 .275 .321 .597
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/25/2014.

Both Craig Swan and Matt Harvey failed to reach ten victories in their outstanding seasons, but each pitcher had a sub-2.50 ERA.  However, unlike Hamels, who made 30 starts in 2014, Swan and Harvey started 28 and 26 games, respectively, leaving Hamels all by his lonesome in the 30-start, 2.50-or-under-ERA, single-digit-victory club.

Imagine what Hamels could do for a team that, you know, actually scores runs.  It would behoove the Phillies to trade Hamels now, while he's still in his prime and is still putting up All-Star numbers.

Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels are the Phillies' version of the "core four", as the quartet was originally drafted by Philadelphia and have spent a combined 47 seasons in the city of Brotherly Love.  But Rollins, Howard and Utley are all past their prime years and are playing like it.  Hamels is not.

"We're not amused that Iggy Beartran thinks we're past out prime." (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

For years, Cole Hamels has never endeared himself to Mets fans.  From calling the Mets chokers following the Phillies' 2008 championship season to costing R.A. Dickey a chance to toss the team's first no-hitter in 2010, Hamels has been the textbook definition of an ass.

During the 2009 World Series against the Yankees, Hamels admitted that he couldn't wait to go home while his teammates were trying to win a second championship.  If he wants to win more games, perhaps home for Hamels should be in a city that doesn't serve up steaks on a hoagie or poorly-timed quotes from its star pitcher.

Escaping from Philadelphia can help both the Phillies on a team level and Cole Hamels on a personal level.  Hopefully, if Hamels does get traded, it's to a team that has the Mets on its schedule.  That 8-14 career mark versus New York needs a few more 'L's on it.

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