Have you watched Jason Hammel pitch recently and thought to yourself, “Where did this guy come from?”
I’m aware of Hammel’s backstory and journey to relevance in the MLB and even I found myself staring at my TV on Tuesday night asking myself the same question. Because the Jason Hammel that I’ve watched with the Cubs over the past 30 starts isn’t the Jason Hammel I thought I knew.
It was his six-strikeout gem over the course of 7.2 innings to really get me to realize it, and understand just how much I, and Cubs fans in general, might be taking him for granted.
Since Jason Hammel became a member of the Chicago Cubs for the 2014 season, and then again before the 2015 season, he’s been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Not just the Cubs. All of baseball. That’s not hyperbolic. Because of his lack of name recognition and zero track record of success, it’s largely gone overlooked.
That got me thinking, being the career journeyman that he is, what makes this Hammel seem so much better than the Hammel of anywhere else?
So I dug up the necessary stats and the differences are astounding. Hammel’s stats as a Cub somewhat resemble the contrast in numbers a young pitcher would see when jumping from AAA to the majors.
His ERA and WHIP, two stats even the most novice of baseball fans understand, are down significant amounts from any of his former employers. Added to that, his BB/9 (walks per nine innings) are down a full pass from the next closest team.
Strikeouts are up and his FIP (which stands for Fielding Independent Pitching) is also down to a tier that is considered ‘Great’ based upon Baseball Prospectus’ FIP analysis scales.
All things are trending in the right direction for Jason Hammel, and while his eight-figure contract may have seemed extreme at the time it was signed, it’s looking like an absolute steal in retrospect.
But what about his time donning the blue and red pinstripes, pitching in front of an ivy-soaked backdrop, is causing such a dramatic improvement?
Is it Wrigley Field? Perhaps. Though for years Wrigley Field has been near the top of ESPN’s Park Factors ranks, the past two years (the two years that Hammel has been a member), it’s actually ranked near the bottom of runs added because of ballpark.
Jason Hammel is a guy who has generally pitched to contact over the course of his career. So the fact that Wrigley has trended towards a pitchers ball park perhaps adds some context.
I asked our lead baseball writer Cameron Kmen what he thinks Hammel’s biggest help has been and he kept it simple.
“Chris Bosio” he said, adding that Bosio has been able to help Hammel become way more consistent using the skill set he already possessed.
Is Jason Hammel going to win a Cy Young Award? Certainly not. While valuable, he’s not an ace, and he doesn’t dominate games like a Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer. But what Jason Hammel has done in his one-plus year in a Cubs uniform has been pretty damn special.
And I’m glad that we’re all finally starting to really take notice because after all numbers never lie.