Welcome to new Crossing Broad contributor, Mark Whited!  He outlines the importance of Cole Hamels this season.

Coming off an 11-1 victory on Monday, the Phillies enter tonight’s game with a VERY big question to be answered:  Is Cole Hamels back to his ’08 form?

 In 2008, Hamels was one of the best pitchers in the league. After putting together a 14-10 season in 2008, Hamels went on to achieve even more success in the playoffs, going 4-0 and eventually, after a 48 hour rain delay, helped capture the club’s second World Series Championship. When 2009 rolled around, we all expected more of the same. Come on now, let’s be honest. We all expected a Cy-Young type season. What we got were a whole lot of excuses. We heard that his 10-11 season in 2009 was because he didn’t condition well in the prior offseason. We heard that his poor performance during Game 2 of last year’s NLDS against the Rockies was because Hamels had a baby on the way, and that took his focus off the game.  We all made excuses for his disappointing season. Well, this year, there are none.

 He spent the majority of the spring working on mechanics, and working on some new pitches. Let’s face it, he needed to. While his fastball is good, and his changeup rivals that of our foe up North (Johan Santana), his curveball just flat out stinks. I can honestly say, I think President Obama might have a better one.  But, I am getting a bit off subject. The point is, Hamels has put in the work this spring to have a bounce back season, and though his results in spring training are hard to stomach, I think this year there will be a more mentally tough Cole Hamels.

 Tonight, Cole Hamels takes the mound against the Nats, opposing veteran right-hander, Jason Marquis. The Phillies are looking for their second win of the season, while we are all hoping Hamels starts his season off on the right foot.  Though, this shouldn’t be much of a challenge for Hamels. Cole is 7-3 in his career against the Nationals, and well, the Nats aren’t what you call the, “class of the NL” The first pitch is at 7:05, and can be seen on TNC (Channel 8 for those here in Philadelphia).