Photo Credit: Keith Allison
Jason Hammel will be facing the Yankees in the Bronx in about an hour. Whenever a pitcher goes against the Yankees (especially in their home park), fantasy owners tend to be shook. Me? I’m streaming the shit out of Hammel tonight, and the odds are pretty good that our partnership will last past Monday (pause). Many of you are probably thinking, “B-B-But Starbonell! This is the same guy who has posted ERAs over 4.7 the last two years! Y-You’re kidding, right?”
More after the jump:
If I told you there was a pitcher sitting on waivers in more than half of Yahoo! leagues who was dealing in the mid-90s, racking up grounders like crazy, punching out a bunch of batters, and already sitting on three wins, you would likely stop what you were doing and run to your computer to pick him up. Yet chances are, if you found out that player was Jason Hammel, you would just say, “Oh, he’ll come back down to earth.” It’s easy people to say “this guy sucks” and point at his atrocious production in Colorado, but not every pitcher with a scrub track record remains a bum for life.
Hammel’s hot start does not appear to be luck-fueled at all. For starters, he’s throwing harder than ever (93.5 mph average on fastball) and is inducing more swings-and-misses (10.3 SwStr%; 7.8 career). It’s obvious that increased velocity and an uptick in whiffs is a common correlation, but Hammel isn’t just missing more bats. The contact he’s inducing is weak as hell as he’s putting up a 14.7 LD% and 61.8 GB%. Anytime you add swinging strike potential and a high number of grounders (or a low number of line drives), it usually equals fantasy owners creaming their pants. Yet because Hammel has this aura of “sucking” surrounding his reputation, many aren’t willing to take a flier.
I’m not saying Hammel is the answer to your starting pitching woes or that he is definitely having a breakout year, but it’s pretty clear that he is pitching the best baseball of his life right now. Say what you want about regression to the mean or the AL East effect (because for some reason, no one is allowed to succeed in baseball’s hardest division… you know, except for all the dudes that do), but just remember that this is baseball. A lot stranger shit has happened and if these trends hold up for Hammel, there is no way he won’t be a must-own player in all 12-team mixed formats this year.