Cole Hamels has been out of the rotation since hitting the injured list with an oblique strain back on June 28. But the veteran lefty has recovered his health and will be back with the Cubs on Saturday to pitch against the Brewers.
After exiting his last start during mid-inning warm-ups, Hamels expressed that he wouldn’t force a return because he has dealt with oblique injuries in the past. As it turns out, that meant missing only five weeks or so. If he’s able to pitch anything like he was in the first half, this will be a huge boost for the Cubs.
In 99.2 innings, Hamels has a 2.98 ERA with a 3.59 FIP and 2.3 fWAR. Most encouraging before Hamels’ injury was his elite whiff rate of 26%, which was 2% better than the league average. Much of that success can be attributed to his trademark changeup and an effective four-seamer.
His fastball whiff rate has risen from 6% last year to 9% this season, which is a huge deal since he throws the pitch two of every five pitches.
It wasn’t as if Hamels’ success was a fluke, either. Batters’ expected wOBA against him before the injury was an abysmal .303, which qualifies as the best rate in his career since 2015 when Statcast became a thing.
Since oblique injuries scare the hell out of me, I’ll be holding my breath throughout the entirety of Cole’s first start. After he settles in, though, I won’t stop thinking about this rotation’s strengths with a healthy Cole Hamels and strong Yu Darvish.