PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 23: Cole Hamels #35 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the first inning during a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park on April 23, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Let's play a game: when is the last time the Phillies started the season by being winless in their first five starts by their Opening Day starter?
If you said "never," then you win! To be honest, I don't know if that's the answer, but I suspect that it's been quite a while since that occurred. If you actually do know the answer, then pat yourself on the back, because that's some next-level trivia, fella. Your prize is that you get to play right field for the Phillies, because hey, they can't get much worse out there.
Anyway, back to Cole Hamels, who is winless in his first five starts of the 2013 season after being named Opening Day starter for the first time in his career. But not only is Cole without a win, but the Phillies have yet to win a single game that was started by the young lefty. A quick peak at his ERA in those five starts (5.40) might suggest that he hasn't pitched well enough to deserve a win, but if you forget about his first two games of the season (13 ER in 10.2 innings), it really doesn't add up.
After getting shelled by the Atlanta Braves and the Kansas City Royals to start the season, Hamels got back into a groove in his next three starts, where he had a 2.57 ERA with 19 strikeouts over his next 21 innings of work. Put differently, he pitched like you'd expect the recent recipient of a $144 million contract to pitch.
Despite his return to dominance over the last two weeks, that hasn't resulted in any wins for the lefty, who is 0-3 to start the season for the first time in his career. And on that note, a brief word about pitcher wins. Pitcher wins are a weird thing, because they don't truly account for the pitcher's performance by himself. Not only does a starting pitcher's performance factor into it, but so does the performance of the offense, the defense, and the bullpen. A great performance can be undone by poor defense, a shoddy offense, or a weak bullpen. And on that note, it's easy to argue that pitching wins are completely useless when it comes to evaluating a pitcher's talent and performance. Just ask Cliff Lee, who in 2012 had a 6-9 record despite a 3.16 ERA and a lot of really great starts. Or Felix Hernandez, who went 13-12 (2.27 ERA) in 2010 en route to a Cy Young award.
But back to Hamels, who has all-too-often been the victim of shoddy run support and bad luck on the mound. Prior to 2013, Hamels has had more than 15 wins only once. He's never had a 20-win season. He's won 14 games twice, including in 2011, when he had a 2.79 ERA over 31 starts.
The point is that pitcher wins are not all they are cracked up to be, but it's frustrating as all get-out to see the team go 0-5 in his starts, especially considering how well he pitched. Despite the fact that this offense isn't the second coming of the 2007 lineup, when your starter gives up less than three runs, that's a game that you should win.
Pitching wins aside, it's terribly frustrating to see the team go 0-5 when he takes the hill. With a rotation that has its fair share of questions, Hamels was considered to be one of the sure things on the mound. And for the most part, he has been a sure thing, but that doesn't make too much of a difference if the offense isn't able to come through.
It's a long season, and you'd hope that they can reverse this trend sooner rather than later, because if you want a shot at October, then you have to win with your best pitchers on the mound.
The Phillies will get that chance again on Sunday, when Hamels takes the hill against the New York Mets, against whom he has a career 5-10 record and a 4.33 ERA. Why not?