Showdown: Hamels vs Lester

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Showdown: Hamels vs Lester

This season is full of intriguing two-player “Showdowns” that beg comparison and invite debate. In each Showdown we pit two players from the same position against each other, scrutinize their age, injuries (if applicable), and statistics, with only one coming out on top.

The 8th ticket on our Showdown Supercard features two veteran workhorses who, like Cruz and Kemp, were right in the middle of the offseason frenzy. Now entering the ring, it’s: Hamels vs Lester

Much like the Cruz vs Kemp article, this was a real fun one to do. It’s uncanny how many parallels can be drawn between these two aces:

  • The two 31 yr. old Capricorns were born 12 days apart on the West Coast
  • They both debuted in the Majors in 2006 for a team in an East division
  • They were both a key component of a World Series winning team soon after they debuted (2007 for Lester/2008 for Hamels)
  • They have both started 30 games in each season since 2008
  • They have each managed to hurl 200-plus innings in all but one of those seasons 
  • They are both southpaws (almost missed the obvious one)
  • They both finished 2014 with the exact same 2.46 ERA! (yes, that’s my one pop-a-matic punctuation allowed per week – see: Caveball’s Inaugural Address) – a personal best for each workhorse

Cole Hamels  has remained with the Phillies despite the many meetings the head office has conducted with interested parties. They are not parting with Hamels without the proper talent coming back their way.

Who could blame them? Hamels has been one of the most reliable arms in all of baseball for 9 straight years. The only small stain on his resume′ came in 2009 during the hangover from the previous year’s championship. Of course, this included an extra 35 IP during which he pitched his guts out. Hamels was awarded the World Series MVP that year.

Okay, all of these accolades are heart-warming and wonderful, but the big question for those of us in Fantasy is “What has he done lately?”

Well, as mentioned, Hamels had his lowest ERA (2.46) last season, and was every bit as good as he has been throughout his career. He put up his usual excellent numbers:

204 IP/176 H/198 K with a 1.15 WHIP

The only difference is in the external factors – namely the run support, or lack thereof.

In 2013, when the Phillies began their demise, he suffered his first sub-ten total in the win column since his shortened rookie season. He had 8 Ws. Last year he managed 9. This year the Phillies are already being talked about as one of the worst teams in the Majors. However, Hamels should be on a contender sometime before the trade deadline comes.

John Lester  won the last game of the 2007 World Series shortly after recovering from lymphoma, and has been the key to the Red Sox rotation since then – at least, up until his trade with the As last year. And, while many Sox fans were thinking the A’s were just borrowing their long-time ace, he had other ideas. After much ado, he finally signed with the Cubs in the offseason.

Lester has been on a mission ever since “The Fried Chicken Incident”, which was a lot of baloney, anyway. What is baloney, anyway? 

Anyway, in 2013, he was an even more important cog in Boston’s unlikely championship season. He was a steady source of wins (15) and Ks (177), but was Mr. Clutch in the post-season. Just in case you needed more convincing about how much these two have in common, it was eerily similar to Hamel’s 2008 playoff performance:

Cole Hamels (2008)5435301.800.91
Jon Lester (2013)5434.2291.560.95

Last year he was on top of his game, as well. Included with his 2.46 ERA was:

219.2 IP/194 H/220 K with a 1.10 WHIP

Lester now finds himself on a team bursting with young elite talent.

The Decision

Hamels will be battling from the get-go to land on a contender. His run support doesn’t look like it will be improved from last year. So, we have to expect the same lack of wins until he is dealt away.

Lester has moved to the more pitcher-friendly of the two leagues. However, he has skipped his last Spring Training start due to a tired arm. As bad as this sounds, he did say he expects to be ready for Opening Day.

So, there’s two outstanding variables in this match. Until we know exactly where Hamels winds up, and whether or not Lester’s “tired arm” will be an issue, it’s impossible to pick between these two workhorses, who have had almost identical careers. 

The Winner: Draw


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