Two pertinent questions involving Cole Hamels:
1) If the Phillies started a playoff series tomorrow, would he start Game 2?
2) What will happen when his contract expires at the end of this season?
I posed versions of both questions to Ruben Amaro Jr. today. First, his contract. Hamels is in the final year of a three-year extension he signed after the 2008 season. But he can't become a free agent until after 2012. Which leaves several possibilities. One, the Phillies sign him to a long-term deal before arbitration. Two, the two sides end up before an arbitration panel. Three, the two sides come to terms on a shorter deal, perhaps one year, perhaps two or three.
I asked Amaro if it was possible that something happens before the end of this season.
"I don't know," Amaro said. "It's pretty clear that we would like to have Hamels beyond his free agent years here. That's not even an issue. But we'll address it, hopefully at the appropriate time."
As for where Hamels currently stands on the pecking order in the Phillies rotation, Amaro understandably deferred.
"I'll let (the coaching staff) handle that one," he said. "But he's awfully good. He's pitched great. Hopefully we are in that situation where we have those decisions to make. I think a lot of it depends on who has the hot hand, who's been the sharpest, if we get to that situation. But that's so far down the road."
That doesn't mean we can't ponder the question.
Between 2009 and this season, Cliff Lee has made 25 starts as a Phillie. So below are Halladay and Hamels' numbers in their last 25 starts. Roy Oswalt has only started 22 games as a Phillie, so we used those numbers:
As you can see, Hamels ranks first or second in nearly every peripheral category. He leads the Big Four in strikeouts and baserunners allowed and is tied with Oswalt for the lead in home runs allowed. He is second in innings-per-start, and actually has a better ERA over his last 25 starts than Halladay does (Oswalt's 2.22 through 22 starts is tops).
Halladay is a prototypical Game 1 starter. He is an absolute workhorse, and he rarely lets games spin out of control. He also has plenty of experience pitching on short rest.
Lee has the sizzle factor, given the way he has dominated the Yankees over the last couple offseasons. But Hamels was pretty dominant himself throughout the 2008 run. And who can forget his complete game victory over the Reds in last year's NLDS finale?
Right now, I'd still go Halladay-Lee-Hamels-Oswalt. But there is a lot of season left.