2010 Colorado Rockies Player Review: Pitcher, Jason Hammel, "Mr. Consistent"

Consistency: marked by harmony, regularity, or steady continuity, free from variation or contradiction.

Sound like Jason Hammel to you?  Probably not.  After all, he started the season extremely poorly, eventually being placed on the disabled list with a groin injury.  While his struggles before the disabled list may or may not have been tied to his injury, his return from the DL was notable.  

With Jorge de la Rosa and Jeff Francis on the disabled list and Aaron Cook struggling to be consistently effective, Hammel suddenly became the Rockies' best starter not named Ubaldo for the middle months of the season.  That fell apart in September, when bouts with "dead arm" derailed his effectiveness.  Do we need to see a graph of Hammel's game scores to know how varied his performances were over the 2010 season?  Probably not, but I'm going to post it anyway.

Hammelgamescore_medium

Of course, there's a reason I have dubbed Hammel "Mr. Consistent."  He may not have been consistent on a micro scale, but on a larger scale, you won't find a pitcher more so.  Compare his 2010 line to 2009:

Season    W    L    GS      IP ERA  WHIP
2009    10    8    30  176.2 4.33   1.39
2010    10    9    30  177.2 4.81   1.40
That's pretty ridiculous right there.  Same number of starts and wins, just one more inning pitched, one more loss and nearly an equivalent WHIP.  Except that ERA is way higher.  Let's see why that is. 

Be prepared to be shocked.

First, let's check Hammel's batted ball statistics.  If he was hit harder, his WHIP may have stayed the same but showcased the heightened ERA.  But...that's not what happened.

Year GB/FB   LD%   GB%   FB% HR/FB BABIP  LOB%
2009   1.49 22.80% 46.20% 31.00%  9.70%   .337 69.50%
2010   1.42 20.30% 46.70% 33.00%  9.70%   .337 68.60%

There was mild noise in his line drive, ground ball and fly ball rates, but if anything, his 2010 profile was slightly improved.  His home run rates and batting average on balls in play were precisely congruent.  Weird.  And lastly, his strand rate fell off by less than one percent.  Sure looks like the same pitcher to me.

 

The next step is to check into his fielder independent rate statistics, which lead into FIP/xFP and WAR.

Year K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 FIP xFIP Fang. WAR B-Ref WAR
2009 6.78 2.14 3.17 0.87 3.71 3.81 3.8 1.8
2010 7.14 2.38 3.00 0.91 3.71 3.81 3.7 1.7

Jason Hammel struck out more in 2010, walked more as well and ended up with a comparable K/BB ratio.  It did fall off from 2009, but we can hardly chastise him for that, considering his 3.00 K/BB led Rockies starters, and that 2009 figure represents a Rockies franchise record.   Then notice the mirror image FIPs and xFIPs that lead to almost precisely equivalent WARs.  This is getting creepy.

Jason Hammel was the exact same pitcher as he was in 2009.  Of course, there has to be SOME reason his ERA leapt 0.48 points from 2009 despite remarkably consistent peripherals. 

Year PA with RISP, 2 out Runs Allowed
2009    91    21
2010    87    32

Frankly, his timing was better in 2009.  In 2010, hits were grouped more often, leading to more runs and bigger innings.  He failed to close out innings as well with two outs.  That is something that could be bad luck, a weak mental state, or faulty increased trust from Jim Tracy to clean up his own mess.

 

Hammel in 2011

The freakishly tall right-hander has just over three years of service time, meaning he is under team control until 2013.  He is eligible for arbitration this offseason, and as Jeff estimated last week, he is set to earn over $5million in 2011. 

Some Rowbots have suggested he be moved to long relief, which is really selling Hammel horrifically short, which is nothing new.  Andrew Martin profiled Hammel's prominence as an upper tier back end starter in 2009.  He will never be a top of rotation starter, but he won't have to fight for a rotation spot.  According to WAR, he's at least as valuable as the pitcher everyone seems to think the Rockies cannot afford to lose:

2009+2010 Fang. WAR B-Ref WAR
Jason Hammel   7.5   3.5
Jorge de la Rosa   5.4   3.6

Provided his "dead arm" in September isn't indicative of an injury, Rockies fans can be fairly confident in what Hammel will bring to the table in 2011.  It might not have been the breakout year I expect in March, but his efforts in the middle months kept the rotation together.

2010 Grade:  B
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