The wear and tear of seven straight seasons of 200-plus innings caught up to Cole Hamels in 2017. His K/9 dipped from 9.0 to 6.4 and he lost a tick of velocity on his fastball and sinker. Though an early oblique injury deserves some of the blame, the lefty has actually been trending in the wrong direction for a few seasons, nibbling more often around the plate as the years have gone by. The 34-year-old still can force plenty of groundballs, though, and that may keep him afloat in the American League and his dangerous home park. His career-low 70.2 left-on-base percentage should improve toward his career 76.6 rate, but he'll probably need to find a way to work more aggressively around the plate - perhaps by using his solid, if unspectacular, cutter more often to balance his weakening four-seamer. Prospective owners are better off targeting him for volume over anything else.
Hamels, who was named the Rangers' Opening Day starter, will not be subject to manager Jeff Banister's planned six-man rotation, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Hamels will pitch on four days rest just as he has throughout his career, while others in the rotation may get extra time in between starts. The six-man rotation will limit the number of starts for the non-Hamels starters, but the Texas ace should reach 30-35 starts if he stays healthy.
Hamels was named the Rangers' Opening Day starter Friday. The announcement is no surprise, as Hamels is easily the Rangers' most accomplished starter even if Bartolo Colon ends up making the team. The lefty has fallen off far from his days as a true frontline starter, however, after posting a 4.20 ERA with a 4.62 FIP and 4.83 xFIP in 2017. Don't be fooled into thinking the 34-year-old is anything close to an ace simply because he's the best starter on the Rangers.
Hamels will pitch on a normal schedule throughout the 2018 season, Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram reports. Hamels made it known that he didn't want any part of a six-man starting rotation. Since voicing his concerns Saturday, the Rangers have announced that Hamels, Doug Fister and Matt Moore will all pitch on a normal schedule, with opportunities to start every fifth game for the Rangers.
Hamels expressed his displeasure at the six-man starting rotation being considered by the Rangers, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. "I know that's the new analytical side of trying to reinvent the wheel, but I was brought up in the minor leagues on a five-man [rotation], and that's what I'm designed and conditioned for," Hamels said after logging 2.1 innings in his Cactus League debut Saturday. The moment you hear about a six-man rotation, the first thought racing through a fantasy owner's mind is fewer starts. To be fair, the Rangers are merely considering it, but haven't made a final decision. If they do go to six starters, it's quite possible that they wouldn't use six starters every turn of the rotation, and they would likely keep Hamels, the staff ace, on a comfortable five-day schedule. Hamels has been a workhorse throughout his career, throwing more than 200 innings in seven straight seasons before an oblique injury limited him to 148 in 2017.
Hamels (11-6) allowed three runs on five hits and one walk across three innings to take the loss Sunday against the Athletics. He struck out five. Hamels struggled in the third inning, allowing four straight hits to begin the frame and surrendering three runs before he was able to escape. With nothing left to play for, the veteran was lifted prior to the fourth inning after working up to just 59 pitches. So concludes what will go down as a disappointing season for Hamels, who finishes with a 4.20 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 148 innings. He dealt with multiple injuries along the way, but he still flashed his potential at times and will look to return to his best form in the 2018 campaign.