Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 12:11 AM
This became a very interesting game all of a sudden. The Philadelphia Phillies visit the New York Mets Thursday Night in a game that’s surrounded by fascinating storylines. It’s the only head-to-head meeting this week of All-Star pitchers…but that barely scratches the surface!
*First, Cole Hamels may not be with the Phillies for very much longer. The team is trying to negotiate a contract extension with him. But…he’s DEFINITELY going to be a pitcher who will command some quality bodies in a trade after the All-Star Break. That’s when contenders trade for pitchers. All contenders would love to add Cole Hamels to their arsenal! If the Phillies aren’t going to be part of a pennant race this year (which looks increasingly likely with each passing series), then trading Hamels for prospects might be a smart move. That’s a toughie for the Phils…who were expecting to win the NL East this year without much of a sweat. They got old FAST, and they know they need to do something about it.
*Second, the result of this game could weigh heavily on the path management chooses because the Phils are tight on the cusp of relevancy. Had they lost on July 4th (they won after a late rally), and lost tonight…then you could have pretty much written them off. They were already 10 games under .500 before Wednesday’s win…and it’s very hard to get to 90-72 or better from that big a hole. That being said…the fact the Cliff Lee finally got a victory may be the signal that a turnaround is imminent. A win tonight would put them about 6-7 games out of the Wildcard race with 78 to play. Do the Phillies have the talent to close 52-26? They’re close to full strength now health-wise, and they WERE supposed to be the best in this division when healthy.
*Third, this is also a gut check game for the Mets! They blew a lead Wednesday when starting pitcher Chris Young got tired before the horrible bullpen collapsed again. The METS role in the pennant race will be better understood after we see what happens tonight with R.A. Dickey on the mound. He lost his last home start to the Yankees and C.C. Sabathia in a high profile game. Many skeptics saw that as evidence that Dickey can’t pitch when it matters…even if his hard knuckler is embarrassing lesser teams. Should Dickey struggle again tonight in the Big Apple…concerns will be raised about the Mets legitimacy.
Normally, Hamels vs. Dickey would stand on its own as a great pitcher’s duel. You’ll see that in a moment when we run through their individual stats. Tonight, we’re suddenly looking at a season shaper for BOTH teams…and possibly a franchise changer for a Phillies team that has to decide if it wants to play for this year or play for the future.
Check out the gaudy 2012 stats from these aces…
9.0 strikeouts per 9 innings
111-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio
Remember, the Phils were 10 games under .500 as a team before their holiday victory. Yet, Hamels had a sparkling 10-4 record anyway. This isn’t a guy riding the coattails of his teammates. This is a guy putting a slumping team on his back and carrying them to victory. Hamels has been around long enough that you know none of those numbers are a fluke. The best indicators for longterm success in this league are K-Rate and that K-BB ratio. Hamels is a horse who doesn’t beat himself while he’s embarrassing you.
We should say it again, he’s going to be a very sought after pitcher in trade talks if the Phils don’t come to an agreement on an extension with him in the coming days. Hamels is a known quantity…and has to be seen as a relatively safe investment given his lack of injury issues through his career to this point. He’s on pace for 30+ starts for the fifth straight season.
There are rumors that Hamels is being shopped by the Phils because his contract is up at the end of the year. The further Philly drifts out of the race, the more likely it is that another contender will come in and make an offer they can’t refuse.
9.2 strikeouts per 9 innings
116-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio
We’ve talked a lot about Dickey in recent weeks here at the website, so most of today’s discussion has focused on Hamels. But, it’s worth reminding everyone that Dickey has better numbers than Hamels! He doesn’t throw anywhere near as hard…but that new and improved knuckler of his has been baffling everyone but the Yankees all season. Those are definitely Cy Young numbers you see up there. And, amazingly, he’s not having issues with walks even though he has less “control” over where the ball finally ends up than most pitchers.
Category by category…Hamels is very good…but Dickey is better to this point. It’s amazing how totally unhittable Dickey is when that hard knuckler is popping.
Is this where the wheels come off? Another high profile home game where the pressure is really on to produce? Hey, Dickey is competing to be the National League starter in the All-Star game. You know that has to be weighing on his mind. Neither of these guys likes being distracted by off-the-field discussions. Both better have blinders on Thursday Night.
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San Francisco at Washington (the finale in this potential playoff preview)
Tampa Bay at Cleveland (tester for two contenders)
Baltimore at LA Angels (Halos happy to be back home!)
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