Not much Phillies action this past week with the All-Star break giving them four days off. Naturally, my choice of featured Phillie for this week will be one of the three pitchers named to the All-Star team.
Featured Phillie of the Week: Cole Hamels
Hamels was deservedly selected to the NL’s All-Star pitching staff. He had an outstanding first half of the season, going 11-4 with a 2.32 ERA. And since his disappointing first start of the season, when he was knocked around by the Mets, he has arguably been the best pitcher in the league.
Up to this season, Hamels has had a mostly great career – highlighted by his 2008 season when he was the World Series MVP. However, due to several factors, his 2009 season was sub par.
As I talked about here, in 2010, he seemed determined to improve himself, and by season’s end, Hamels was performing like one of the best pitchers in baseball. That success has carried over to 2011. The 2011 version of Hamels seems far removed from what we saw in 2009. He now has four dependable pitches – including his awesome changeup – and the requisite mental toughness to go along with it.
He closed out the first half in top form by shutting down the Braves in the final game before the break. He went 8 innings, only giving up three hits and one run. Backed by a rare offensive outburst, he was able to cruise to an easy victory.
Unfortunately, due to a Major League Baseball rule, by pitching the final game before the break, he was ineligible to appear in the All-Star Game. Hamels was disappointed by this, saying that Tuesday was his day to throw in the bullpen anyway, so there was no reason for him not to be eligible to pitch.
Regardless, the National League was able to win without him, thanks in part to the contributions of his fellow aces Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.
Ghost of Phillies Past: Shane Rawley
For my Ghost of Phillies Past, I will take a look at another Phillies lefthander who once made an All-Star Game.
Shane Rawley came to the Phillies in 1984 in a trade with the Yankees. He had experienced moderate success in the American League, and he seemed like he might be a budding star.
He fit in nicely in the Phillies rotation behind Steve Carlton, and for the next couple of seasons, as Carlton’s career trailed off, he seemed to be emerging as the team’s new ace.
In 1986, he earned a trip to the All-Star Game, and in 1987, he became the first Phillie besides Carlton to be the team’s opening day starter since 1971.
Just as it looked like he was reaching the pinnacle of his career, things went downhill quickly. He had an amazing start to the 1987 season, but dropped off severely in the second half. His biggest problem appeared to be lack of control, as he was annually among the league leaders in walks allowed.
The career tailspin continued in 1988 as he went a disappointing 8-16 for a last place Phillies team.
In that offseason, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins for three players, most notably second baseman Tom Herr. Sadly, the switch to the American League didn’t help turn around his career. After a 5-12 season, Rawley’s major league career came to an end.
Hamels has already had a better career than Rawley, being named to two All-Star teams and earning a World Series MVP. He has experienced difficulty in his career and worked past it. Now that he is entering the prime of his career, it would be shocking if he suffered a breakdown similar to Rawley’s. I fully expect him to continue to be one of the league’s best pitchers.