After Tuesday night’s gem against St. Louis, Phillies’ starter Cole Hamels lowered his season ERA to a less than desirable 4.42. His stellar 44/12 K/BB ratio and 2.79 BB/9, however, suggests more success is on the horizon.

Through 38 2/3 innings thus far, Hamels has fallen victim to a .356 BABIP, which explains his sky-high 1.42 WHIP. A similiarly high BABIP (.325) plagued Hamels in 2009 as well, as the 2002 first-rounder posted a career-high 4.32 ERA.

Despite this, Hamels’ 2009 peripherals (7.81 K/9, 2.00 BB/9) were in line with his career totals of 8.47 and 2.31.

One major difference from 2008 to 2009 was Hamels’ o-swing rate-the percentage of pitches an opposing batter swings at outside the strike zone. In 2008, Hamels coaxed whiffs on pitches outside the zone a whopping 30.8 percent of the time (the league average that year was 25.4 percent). In 2009, that number dropped to 26.8 percent.

This could mean one of two things. Either Hamels’ stuff wasn’t quite as nasty last year, or perhaps he was pitching too well. Through six starts in 2010, his o-swing rate is back up to 31.6 percent, leading this Insider to believe the 2008 version of Hamels will emerge this season.

Hamels’ 2009 FIP (3.72) also suggests a bounce-back season is likely. Don’t forget that Hamels posted ace-like ERAs of 3.39 and 3.09 in 2007 and 2008, respectively, as well as WHIPs of 1.12 and 1.08 to go along with the aforementioned strikeout and walk rates.

Given his fourth straight season with no less than 180 innings, Hamels is capable of approaching 200 strikeouts and a 3.50 ERA, making him an excellent buy-low candidate.

FBI Forecast: 200 IP, 14 W, 185 K (8.3 K/9), 3.50 ERA, 1.22 WHIP


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