Cole Hamels is Better This Year, Here’s Why

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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.

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Here is the beginning of his delivery, not many differences.  His lead arm (right) was lower in 2010, with his head maybe just slightly turned more towards home.


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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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14 Responses

  1. Good stuff. Amazing how big a difference a few minor changes to the mechanics can make.

  2. Yeah, it’s interesting, but the release with his foot in the air really shows how he wasn’t get the necessary leverage in 2010. He looks much more twisted in his delivery too. This year, straight on.

  3. May be nitpicking, but did you check the stills from 2 games that are in the same park. Camera angle can play tricks on you with small changes, obviously there’s more than just small changes here. But, it would be better data to look at shots from the exact same camera.

  4. I think i will stop my daily werth bashing. Last night Werthless came up with two men on base and he did the typical Werthless swings.

  5. this is the same park…
    the landing is apparent from any angle, but i see you point on the push off. one is a fox camera, one is csn. the placement this is the same, if only a few feet different.

  6. I don’t want to piss on the parade as it’s an interesting article, but surely you’d have to do analysis on way more than 2 pitches to be able to say that his mechanics have changed between seasons and thus are the reason for improvement.

  7. Also as I recall in NLCS games and WS his fastball was barely hitting 90…it was averaging probably 87-88mph in the Dodgers games. In Game 5 here he was horrible…almost throwing batting practice. So in that case going from 88 to 95 is huge. Makes the 80-82mph change up that much more effective.

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