We posted this back in June, but now might be a better time than ever to revisit it.
Lately, Cole Hamels has pitched like the guy we saw in 2008. Last year he admittedly wasn't in great shape to start the season, and he vowed to not let that happen again. So far he appears to have kept his word. He has been stronger and more consistent in 2010. On Saturday, his fastball hit 96 MPH- markedly better than the 93 MPH he was topping out at in October.
While he appears the be in better shape, the changes aren't purely physical, they're also mechanical.
We took screen shots from Hamels' outing in Game 2 of last year's NLDS against the Rockies, and compared them to ones from June 7th, the game Hamels threw seven no-hit innings. What we found are noticable differences in his release and follow through. Crashburn Alley posted an article that verifies what these photos show. Hamels is releasing the ball at a lower point, more towards the left-handed batter's box in 2010, and he using a more balanced follow through to create power.
Pics after the jump.
October on the left, June on the right.
Here is the release. This is the most important part of the delivery, because it affects location of the ball. Few things to notice here. First, his arm in 2010 (although slightly cut off by the green screen) is lower and more of a 3/4 arm throw. Crashburn Alley backs this claim up. Second, and perhaps most importantly, he is using his legs to drive and stride towards home plate. Notice that his back leg (left) is still pushing off the rubber as he releases, compared to last year when his foot was already in the air- this means less power was coming from his legs in October, and that he was using his upper body to sling the ball towards home plate. The result? Both of these pitchers were fastballs, and the pitch on the left was 91 MPH, compared to 94 MPH on the right.
It's important to note that his back leg remained on the rubber for a few split seconds after this screen cap, as he really is holding the drive longer in 2010. You can also see that he has slightly better balance, and a much lower center of gravity for power.
There are not too many differences in his follow through, but again, he appears to be better balanced in 2010. You can see more of his number 35 in October, showing that he is a bit twisted. In June, he is more squared up to home plate and has his left leg in better position to plant should he need to field the ball. The screen caps don't show it, but his leg shoots up off the mound much more violently in 2010, that is likely coming from his more powerful push off.
Perhaps the most telling and obvious difference between October and June is his follow through. In October, he was falling off to the right side of the mound, seemingly off-balance. This could stem from the fact that he was using more upper body to "whip" the ball towards home plate, instead of driving it straight with his lower half. In June, he is falling off to the left side of the mound, leading him into a 3-point stance that is squared up and ready to field the ball. This has Jamie Moyer written all over it. Moyer always lands in this balanced position. He is known for constantly teaching the other players, and this adjustment has his marks all over it. Being balanced on the follow through indicates that he is in control throughout the delivery and not forcing one part of his body to catch up to another.
There's a whole lot that goes into pitching, and sometimes what works for one player, may not work for another. But what we see here are fundamental differences between Cole's delivery in October and June, leading to a more consistent pitcher in 2010.