One week ago, Cole Hamels made his last start in 2013, when he tossed six solid innings in Miami, where he allowed a pair of runs against the Marlins. He wouldn't figure in the decision, but the Phillies would go on to lose by a score of 3-2.
His final start of the season went as so many others this year had gone, with Cole dealing, but having little to show for it due to poor run support from the offense. He finishes the season with an 8-14 record, which would belie the fact that he has been one of the better pitchers in the National League. His eight wins this season are the fewest of his career, and it's the first time since his debut season that he didn't finish the year with double digit wins.
Early on in the season, that might not have been a surprise, simply because Cole looked pretty awful in his first couple starts. He allowed 13 runs in 10.2 innings over his first two starts, and he looked nothing like the Ace that was re-signed to a six-year extension last season. But two games does not a season make, and Hamels shook off his early troubles and proceeded to pitch like his old self. If you take away those two nightmarish starts at the beginning of the year, then his ERA drops to 3.22, which would be good enough for 16th in the National League.
But ERA is just a number, and it in no way takes away from the fact that Hamels was really, really good this season. He struck out 8.3 per nine, and his 2.0 BB/9 is the second best of his career. He also allowed 0.9 home runs per nine, which goes down as the second best of his career.
The real issue for Hamels, this season, was the rest of the team. The offense provided Hamels with just 3.36 runs per game, which is sixth worst in the National League. That explains how Hamels manged to lose five of the 12 games in which he allowed just two runs.
At the end of the day, Hamels had a great season, even if the stats on the back of his baseball card won't show that. Every five days, he took the mound and gave the Phillies a good chance to win, which is more than you can say for just about anyone else in the rotation.
The good news is that it really can't get much worse for Cole, who will turn 30 before the start of the next season. With any luck, the Phillies will have added more offense, and Cole will be able to get his first win (which will be his 100th) before the sixth start of the season.
With Cliff Lee's time with the Phillies winding down, the stage is set for Hamels to become the new face of the rotation.