Monday, April 26, 2010

Cole and Kendrick Suck, Dwyane Wade Does Not, and Draft Notes

I'm just going to come right out and say it: Right now, Cole Hamels sucks. Yes, four starts is an extremely small sample size, but you know, 36 starts isn't. That would be the amount of starts Cole has had since the beginning of last season, not including his horrific playoffs.

In his last 36 regular-season start, Hamels has pitched 218 and a third innings and given up 107 earned runs, giving him a a 4.41 ERA over that span. Last year, he was 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, and opponents batted an absurdly high .273 against him. So far this season, he's been even worse. In his four starts, he's 2-2 with a 5.11 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. Opponents are hitting worse against him thus far, batting .255, but that number still isn't good. Most troubling has been how he's gotten to those numbers again.

This was supposed to be the bounceback year for Cole, where he put all the distractions aside, focused on his craft and matured. Instead through four games, he looks exactly like the underachieving pitcher from 2009 that completely imploded in the postseason. His stuff is there, good as ever, but there just seems to be that one inning, that one moment when something goes wrong and Cole comes off the tracks. It's become a troubling problem, one that seemed impossible following his impressive run in the 2008 postseason, where he earned NLCS and World Series MVP honors. Nothing rattled him then. Everything rattles him now, and has for more than a year.

In his first start this season, against the lowly Nationals, he allowed Washington to tie the game twice after his teammates gave him the lead. He did get a win and didn't pitch poorly, but it wasn't the lockdown performance you want your former ace to display. Five days later, he followed that up with another game against the Nationals in a performance that can only be described as shitty. Again, yes, he got the win, but that was thanks entirely to his bats, who bailed him out with 7 runs. Hamels dug the Phillies a 4-0 hole, highlighted by a three-run fourth where Cole got wild and came undone with two outs, giving up a two-run double to opposing pitcher Jason Marquis (though to be fair, Marquis is a great hitting pitcher).

His last outing prior to Friday, Cole finally did look the way we all want him to, the way he's supposed to, going 8 innings, giving up just two runs and striking out 8, only to lose. Crazy shit. He pitches average or worse in his first two outings and wins, then tosses a gem and loses. Still, that start gave us all hope. In his third outing of 2010, Cole Hamels looked much more like the 2008 version than the 2009. Then he took two giant steps backwards on Friday.

There was Hamels, working with a 2-0 lead in Arizona going up against the remains of Kris Benson in the 4th inning. Then bam, the wheels came off. Two-run homer to Mark Reynolds, followed immediately by an Adam LaRoche homer, followed by a single and then a third home run, this one by Chris Snyder, 5-2 Diamondbacks. Hamels gave up a fourth home run in the 5th for good measure, completing the collapse. One home run set things off. It's situations like that where you learn a lot about a pitcher. Aces go out there and more often than not respond to a home run or tough situation by coming back and getting out of it, limiting the damage. Hamels has more times than not over the past year-plus done the complete opposite, just as he did Friday night. One homer became two, then three, then four. That's all she wrote. As Bill Parcels was so fond of saying, you are what you are, and right now, for more than a year now, Cole Hamels is a shitty pitcher, an average Major League starter at best. He's still young and talented and has plenty of time this season to turn things around, but the fact of the matter is he was supposed have done that by now. We waited for it all last season and it never came. How much longer are we supposed to wait before it's determined it's never coming back? Hopefully we won't have to wait much longer. Hopefully Cole gets his shit together and becomes that ace he was destined to be. But the longer this goes on, the unlikelier that gets.

However, if you put Hamels up against Kyle Kenrick, well, he looks a whole heck of a lot better.

Let's stop with this whole "Kyle Kendrick is a Major League pitcher" joke and move on, shall we? The guy sucks. That's a fact. He doesn't belong anywhere near a major league clubhouse, unless it is to deliver hot chocolate to the real players.

Yesterday, he did his best Cole Hamels impression, imploding in the fifth inning to the tune of five runs, turning a 3-0 lead into a 5-3 deficit, and eventually the Phils lost, despite actually coming back to take the lead at 6-5, with a little help from Danys Baez and his 6.43 ERA blowing a save and David Herndon and his 7.04 ERA continuing to suck. The 5-inning, 8-hit, 5-run, 4-walk outing by Kendrick "improved" his numbers to a 7.71 ERA and 1.77 WHIP, with a .316 opponents batting average and an impressive 1:1 walk/strikeout ratio. Awesome. Joe Blanton can't get healthy soon enough. Man do I wish the Phillies really did trade Kyle Kendrick to Japan.

Even an injured Cliff Lee looks more impressive than Kendrick and Hamels right now.

Speaking of looking impressive, I hope you were all watching what Dwyane Wade did yesterday. If you didn't you missed quite a show.

The Celtics, trailing by six at halftime, turned it on in the third quarter, taking a lead into the fourth. Then Wade, who was already having a great game, went bonkers. He completely took over, refused to let his season end, hitting every conceivable shot you could imagine. With 25 seconds remaining in the third, Boston took a commanding 75-68 lead, which looked as though it had turned the tide in Boston's favor. Then Wade came out with a three to close the quarter, then hit a two, then hit another three, cutting Boston's lead to one. After Sheed hit a free throw, Wade made yet another three, giving Miami a 79-78 lead, and that was that. The Heat never looked back, as Wade dropped two more threes before it was all said and done, hit some free throws and jumpers, and kept his Miami Heat career alive for at least one more game. He finished with 46 points on 16-24 shooting, made five three pointers, grabbed five boards and passed off five assists. It was simply remarkable.

As Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson said during the broadcast, even if LeBron wasn't a free agent, teams would be shedding salary and opening up their cap space to sign Wade, he's that good. Sometimes people may forget that, with LeBron (understandably) receiving all the pub, all the hype. But in case you needed a reminder, Dwyane Wade is pretty damn good too. Shit, the guy is shooting nearly 60 percent from the field in this series, and yesterday he won that game practically on his own. It was awesome to watch.

Now let's touch on the draft a little bit. As Ed said on Friday, this was one of the most confusing first rounds in NFL Draft history, and it didn't get any less confusing for us Eagles fans over the weekend.

There was a plethora of talent in this class, especially at the safety position. A slew of familiar faces patrolling the secondary were available, and the Eagles definitely needed a safety. I really wanted Taylor Mays, given his size, speed and the fact he hits like a truck, but the guy was falling quickly on the draft boards, including Philadelphia's. The Birds picked Nate Allen, who by all accounts is going to be really good and fits exactly what the Eagles need: a playmaker in the secondary with the ball-hawking skills and range to make a great pass defender. I'm excited to see him play, though I was bummed that out of all the safeties out there, the Eagles drafted the one I knew the least about. I didn't watch South Florida play much the past couple years, but hard to argue with the pick.

I was more than stunned that the Eagles took another defensive end with their third pick, taking Daniel Te'o-Nesheim out of Washington. Perhaps this is prejudice, but all I think of when I hear his name is Chris Gocong. I can only hope he's a hell of a lot better than Gocong. A couple rounds later, they picked a third defensive end, Ricky Sapp out of Clemson, who was without question a value pick at that point. It was odd seeing them go with three defensive ends, but Sapp has a ton of talent as well, so I really liked the pick. They also got a corner in Trevard Lindley from Kentucky, picked up linebacker Keenan Clayton from Oklahoma, quarterback Mike Kafka from Northwestern, tight end Clay Harbor from Missouri, as well as three guys in the seventh round that more than likely won't make the team.

Two of the more intriguing picks to me though happened late as well. Riley Cooper is a tall, lanky receiver that could challenge Hank Baskett for that fourth wide receiver spot, perhaps perfecting the fade pattern in the end zone we heard so much about with Baskett but never actually saw. And Charles Scott out of LSU, the bruising back, could provide a nice developmental complement to LeSean McCoy, Mike Bell and Leonard Weaver with his big, physical style. If he can play special teams at all, I suspect this will be the end of the Eldra Buckley era. It's always nice to bring a short-yardage back into the fold given this team's struggles in that area during the Andy Reid era.

As far as Penn Staters go, Jared Odrick went in the first round to Miami (28 overall), joining Cameron "don't call me Derek" Wake. Sean Lee kept up the tradition of accomplished Penn State linebackers getting drafted by NFC East teams not named the Eagles, going in the second round (55 overall) to the hated Cowboys, following in the footsteps of LaVar Arrington (Washington) and Brandon Short (Giants). Unlike Short and Arrington though, Lee was never one of favorite players, though is all sorts of good.

Speaking of Penn State linebackers, Navorro Bowman went to the Niners in the 3rd round (91 overall) in what can only be considered stunning to me. I'm stunned that Bowman wasn't taken in the 2nd round, because he has late first-round/early second talent. And stunned that Lee went before him. But I really like where Bowman ended up, and I think I'm really going to like the 49ers. They now have Navorro, Patrick Willis, Michael Robinson and drafted Taylor Mays as well, giving them four players I absolutely love.

Rounding out the Penn Staters, Andrew Quarless went to the Packers in the 5th round (154 overall), and that could be a steal. Quarless entered Penn State as a highly touted, highly talented tight end prospect, and he showed flashes of brilliance early on. Then he got in the dog house, getting in trouble and being an immature kid. But in his senior year, he quietly had a really, really good season, doing all the things he was expected to do. At 6'4", 254, he has the size to play in this league, and his speed allows him to get out in patterns and beat his man. He should become a very good pass catching tight end in the NFL. He has to work on his blocking no doubt, but I think Quarless could be a potential steal down the line. Green Bay may not be the best fit with their talent at the position, but don't be surprise if in a couple years Quarless turns out to be everything L.J. Smith was supposed to be. That's who Quarless sort of reminds you of, an L.J. Smith guy, talent wise and even with the struggles. Hopefully he'll put it all together and become the reliable, consistent player L.J. couldn't. He does have this going for him: Unlike L.J., Quarless can actually hang on to the ball.

Mickey Shuler also got drafted but will probably never play, going in the 7th round (214 overall) to Minnesota, and in the single stupidest move ever, the Rams selected Josh Hull in the 7th (254 overall), just wasting everyone's time. Josh Hull is an awful football player who was too slow and took too poor of angles to the football in college. There is absolutely no shot he can be even remotely effective in the NFL. If he sees a single snap in a regular season game, I just may quit watching football forever (no I won't). He sucks. I hate him. And the Rams are assholes for even letting that guy get his named called.

Oh, and Daryll Clark didn't get drafted. Because he's a choke artist. Kind of like Cole and Kendrick these days. Basically, the complete opposite of Dwyane Wade.

BallHype: hype it up!

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