Cole Hamels Shines Among Pitchers Cubs Have Acquired via Mid-Season Trade

Despite appearing to be on the decline at the time of the trade that brought him to Chicago, Cole Hamels has been phenomenal as a Cub. Since making his first start for the team last August, Hamels leads Cubs starters in both ERA and innings pitched. Kyle Hendricks has Hamels beat in some peripheral statistics, but you can certainly make a compelling case that Hamels has been the best starter on the team since he arrived.

Pitcher Innings pitched ERA W/L FIP K/BB
Cole Hamels 101.1 2.46 7-3 3.36 3.73
Kyle Hendricks 92.1 2.73 8-5 2.99 4.65
Jon Lester 70.0 3.34 7-2 4.08 3.05
José Quintana 87.2 3.59 6-5 3.83 4.00

And that’s not particularly surprising, right? If I asked you to guess who has led the Cubs in just about any pitching metric, you’d be safe in guessing Hamels even if you might be wrong for one or two of them. The lefty has been a leader on the field and in the clubhouse since joining the team.

Hamels has exceeded even the most optimistic projections since being acquired and we know how he compares to his contemporaries in the current Cubs rotation. But how does his success compare to other starting pitchers the Cubs have acquired via mid-season trade in the last decade or so?

Very favorably, it turns out. Here’s how Hamels compares to other notable Cubs pitchers acquired via trade over their first 16 starts (with the exception of Dan Haren, who only made 11 starts for the club).

Pitcher Year acquired Age at time of trade Innings pitched ERA W/L FIP K/BB
Rich Harden 2008 26 92.0 2.25 7-2 3.38 3.10
Jake Arrieta 2013 27 87.2 3.18 5-3 4.00 1.95
Dan Haren 2015 34 58.1 4.01 4-2 4.57 3.38
José Quintana 2017 28 96.1 3.83 8-4 3.26 3.93
Cole Hamels 2018 34 101.1 2.46 7-3 3.36 3.73

The first thing that stands out here is that the Cubs have had a strong run of success acquiring starting pitchers in during the season. The five pitchers above make up what would be a pretty formidable rotation, one that Hamels has a good case to be named the ace of.

Hamels’ closest comparison among the starters above at the time of the trade might actually be Haren, though not in terms of stuff. Both pitchers were traded in their age-34 seasons and appeared to be trending down when acquired by the Cubs. Haren more or less continued on that trajectory, failing to make the Cubs’ 2015 postseason roster and retiring after the season to focus on promoting his very strong Twitter brand.

Hamels, on the other hand, totally flipped the switch. At the time of the trade, few imagined that the Cubs would pick up his $20 million option this past offseason. And there was plenty of grousing about the decision to bring him back at that price even after his stellar performance down the stretch last season.

With the way he’s pitching how, though, it’s hard to imagine where the Cubs would be without Hamels.

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