Salisbury: Talking Hamels, Madson and Brown


Monday, June 13, 2011
Posted: 3:40 p.m.

By Jim Salisbury

Cole Hamels is on a roll that has rivaled his performance in the 2008 postseason. The Phillies lefthander, who starts against the Florida Marlins on Tuesday night, is 4-0 with a 1.70 ERA in his last five starts.

Those numbers resemble Hamels results during his storybook run of October 2008, when he went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five postseason starts, helping the Phillies win the World Series while racking up a pair of postseason MVP awards.

While the numbers and results have been similar, Hamels is a much different pitcher than he was in 2008. Back then, he was a fastball-changeup guy who got on a hot streak and carried a team on his back. Now, he is more of a complete pitcher with a four-pitch arsenal and a mental toughness that was formed after enduring - and growing from -- a difficult season in 2009.

Hamels learned a new pitch (the cutter) and sharpened an old one (his curveball) after the 2009 season. It took him some time to get comfortable with those pitches in 2010, but he got on a roll after the all-star break that season and has continued to ride it this season. Since last years all-star break, he ranks second among big-league starters with a 2.40 ERA. Only Seattles Felix Hernandez (2.39) is better. Alas, Hamels is just 13-6 in 28 starts since the all-star break. His record has been impacted by poor run supportjust 3.51 runs per game, 11th worst in the majors over that span.

Hamels ranks fifth in the majors in strikeouts with 195 since last years all-star break. Teammates Cliff Lee (201) and Roy Halladay (197) rank third and fourth over that span.

Also, since last years all-star break, Hamels has held opposing hitters to a .212 batting average, the fifth-best mark in the majors. Opponents have hit just .187 against him in his last five starts. In 2009, when Hamels went 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA, opponents hit .273.

Among other things, the drop in opponents batting average can be attributed to Hamels deeper repertoire of pitches. Its difficult for a hitter to sit on any one pitch.

I have more weapons now, said Hamels, who has gotten better and better right before our eyes.

Ryan Madson

Hes another guy who has gotten better and better right before our eyes.

It started down the stretch in 2008 when his dedication to shoulder strengthening exercises and an overall improved approach to conditioning began to pay off. Madson saw a jump in velocity -- which consistently put his fastball in the mid-90s - and that helped the deception on his changeup. Madsons confidence swelled late in the 2008 season. His performance, which helped the Phils win the World Series, was only part of the reason that Madsons confidence improved. He benefitted greatly from Brad Lidges influence. Throughout that season, Lidge counseled Madson on the art of pitching late in games. Lidge constantly told Madson how good he was and Madsons belief in himself grew. In many ways, Lidge helped create his successor as Phillies closer.

Like Hamels, Madson has been on a tremendous roll. He has converted 15 of 16 save chances this season and before that was one of the games elite set-up men. Madsons rise can be traced to late in the 2008 season. From Aug. 31 of that season until now, he has a 2.64 ERA, the third-best among major league relievers with at least 162 innings over that span. Not too shabby. Agent Scott Boras is already salivating about getting Madson out there on the free-agent market this winter.

Domonic Brown

Hes just 2 for 22 on the current homestand, but the Phillies remain committed to getting him the at-bats and playing time he needs to develop into a productive major leaguer. Every day is a learning experience for the 23-year-old Brown, and hes not just getting wisdom from coaches. Chase Utley pulled Brown aside in the middle of an inning last week in Pittsburgh and told him he needed to get a better secondary lead and jump from first base on a double-play ball.

Chase told me the little things matter, especially in key situations like that, Brown said. Im picking up advice every chance I possibly can. The teaching never stops. I'm willing to learn day in and day out, every opportunity I can. I'm trying to be the best player I can be.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at Follow him on Twitter @JSalisburyCSN.

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