Just 24, old-school lefty Hamels figures to be key Series factor
NL batting champ Chipper Jones says Cole Hamels is the league's best lefty
The lanky Hamels' dominant pitch is a 78-mph circle change-up
He'll pitch the opener and possibly the fifth and seventh Series games
According to Chipper Jones, the best hitter in the National League this year, Cole Hamels, the Phillies' starter in Game 1 of the World Series, is the best lefthander in the National League.
At age 24.
After finishing his second full season in the major leagues.
With a fastball in the low 90s that is never coming at your head.
And without any scary-looking facial hair, menacing tats or distracting idiosyncratic lefthander behavior.
And with a tall, slender physique that earns him no intimidation points.
And a relaxed see-you-at-the-Eagles-concert manner (he's from San Diego) that is so at odds with the working-class vibe of the city in which he plays.
"You have to respect his fastball, and his change-up is devastating," Jones says. "If you're guessing fastball and you get change-up, you're way out in front of it. His change-up is a soft sinker that just falls down."
In the postseason Hamels is 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA. If the Phillies give him any sort of run support -- four runs would be plenty -- there's good reason to think Philadelphia will win Wednesday night's Series opener. Hamels is scheduled to start the fifth game (there's bound to be a fifth game), but depending on how the Series plays out he could be pushed up to Game 4 on short rest, which would make him available for a seventh game, too. Regardless, it's safe to assume that Hamels will be a dominant factor in this World Series. He was in the NLCS, when the Phils beat the Los Angeles Dodgers and he was the MVP.
Hamels is just not the nervous type and never has been. His father, Gary, a school administrator, says that when Cole was at Rancho Bernardo High in northern San Diego County there were games where 30 scouts, each with a radar gun, would gather behind home plate, raising their arms with every pitch. Cole knew they were there, "but he just found a way to focus on his catcher's mitt," the senior Hamels said on Tuesday. When the Reds asked him to fly East so the Cincinnati brass could check out his stuff, Cole consulted his calendar, saw that he had a playoff game and finals, and said he wouldn't be able to do it. When he broke his pitching arm as a junior in high school, a doctor told him he might want to consider another position. "I don't think so," Hamels answered. Says his father, "He's stubborn."
He's a pleasure to watch, and in many ways a throwback. He works quickly, fields his position well, swings the bat with purpose, and he's skinny, the way lefthanders years ago almost invariably were. Watching Cole Hamels at work you might think it's 1977 again, when you didn't see the word lefthander without the word lanky preceding it.
Hamels throws a circle change, in which the thumb and the index finger form a circle around the ball and the pitch gets its oomph, however little there may be, from the three other fingers. Long skinny fingers are ideal for the circle change, and Hamels has them. It was a pitch he saw San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman throw often, but Gary Hamels says his son learned it from his high school coach, Mark Furtak. "It's a little bit of a myth, that he learned the circle change from Trevor Hoffman," the senior Hamels says.