Well, when you got three different Jason Hammel‘s coming at you like a Denny’s Grand Slam hologram card like in the picture above, I imagine it would be hard to touch him! Do you remember those hologram collector’s cards from Denny’s? When I was a kid, Friday nights were always “out to eat dinner” nights with my parents and brother. The places that we would frequent the most included Coco’s, Bob’s Big Boy, Flakey Jake’s, and of course Denny’s. Denny’s had the promotion if you ordered one of their signature “Grand Slam Meals” then you would receive a collector’s Grand Slam hologram card by Upper Deck. So being the collectors that we were, we would venture out to Denny’s restaurants to try and collect all the different players cards that they had to offer. We wouldn’t just go to the local Denny’s, because each restaurant location had different cards. So we would go to Denny’s a couple towns over in each direction to try and get them all. But I just remember ending up with one too many Danny Tartabull cards.
But anyway, onward to talk about MC Hammel. Hammel pitched on Tuesday at Petco Park versus the Padres and had an excellent game giving up one unearned run on 3 hits and 0 walks while striking out 8 Padres in 7 IP in a no-decision. The brilliant effort leaves him with a 3-1 record, 2.70 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 49 K/6 BB in 53.1 IP. Now we have seen Hammel go on some pretty good runs over the last few years, but what stands out about this 8 start stretch to begin the season is the low amount of walks. His 6 walks in 53.1 IP translates to a walk rate of 1.01 BB/9, which would easily be a career best and he would be quite the force if he can maintain it.
Over the course of his career, Hammel has had a slightly better than average walk rate with 2.99 BB/9 heading into the 2015 season. However, he did showoff one of his best seasons in the category last year with a 2.25 BB/9, so maybe he was on to something. But is Hammel going all 2014 Phil Hughes on us this year when Hughes had a miniscule 0.69 BB/9 and an all-time best strikeout to walk ratio of 11.63?
Hammel’s great first pitch strike rate of 63.0% backs up the low walk rate, but his PITCHf/x rate of pitching within the strike zone 50.9% of the time, although higher than the recent years and 28th best in the Majors this year, is not indicative of a walk rate as low as he has. For comparison, out of the top 7 pitchers in BB/9 in 2014 (all 1.41 BB/9 or lower), 6 of the 7 pitchers were in the top 10 in zone% ranging from 52.6%-61.1%. Hammel could end up being that one who does sneak in to the top of the rankings in BB/9 despite not being one of the elite in zone%, but the odds are against him.
So what can we expect from Hammel the rest of the season? Even if his walk rate does not remain as low as it currently is, which I don’t believe it will, he definitely seems to have turned a corner with his command and control dating back to last season. So he can surely end up maintaining a walk rate under 2.00 BB/9. His slider is his out pitch and it is good enough to allow him to keep a strikeout rate at or above 8.00 K/9. Some areas that he may see some regression in are in his HR allowed and BABIP. Currently, he is allowing HR at a rate of 0.84 HR/9, which is well below his marks the last couple of seasons. And his BABIP of .262 is likely not sustainable, and although it may not get as high as his career mark of .304, it is surely to increase at least somewhat. One more thing with Hammel is that he has never gone very deep into games and he has had some injuries that he has dealt with over the last few seasons, so he is not exactly the perfect model of health.
But with all this being said, Hammel still should be a fairly productive pitcher for the rest of the season. For the remainder of the season I’ll give him: 9 W-6 L, 3.48 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 122 K/31 BB in 137 IP.
Now let’s see what else happened on Tuesday…