Jason Hammel: 2012 Breakout Starting Pitcher

Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Ray Guilfoyle takes a look at how Jason Hammel became the ace of the Baltimore Orioles staff.

Last offseason, Jason Hammel was traded from the Colorado Rockies to the Baltimore Orioles for starter Jeremy Guthrie in a swap of starting pitchers looking for a change of scenery. Matt Lindstrom also went to the Orioles, but Hammel had the biggest impact of any of the players involved in this trade in 2012. Pitching in Colorado for three seasons, Hammel showed glimpses of what he could become, but Coors Field has a way of making pitchers look bad real quick. Having owned Hammels a few times, I watched plenty of his starts, and saw him cruise through 5-6 innings and then he relented to the Coors Field curse. Of course, there were plenty of starts where he lasted just a few innings, giving up 4-5 runs on 8 hits and a walk. He seemed to give up hits in bunches in Colorado, like any other Rockies starter.

Hammel's advanced pitching stats show that he has pitched better than his ERA has indicated in the past. Here is a look at his ERA/FIP/xFIP over the last few seasons:

2009: 4.33 ERA/ 3.71 FIP/ 3.76 xFIP

2010: 4.81 ERA/ 3.70 FIP/ 3.66 xFIP

2011: 4.76 ERA/ 4.83 FIP/ 4.65 xFIP

2012: 3.43 ERA/ 3.29 FIP/ 3.46 xFIP

As you can see his FIP and xFIP were a half run to a full run better than his ERA in 2009 and 2010, so his 2012 performance shouldn't have surprised anyone, right? Wrong. There is no way, after his 2011 season, that anyone could have predicted his breakout season in 2012. I have taken chances on Hammel in a few leagues over the years just waiting for his ERA to catch up to his FIP and xFIP, but that was just me hoping and reaching for him late in drafts. It was a gamble and we all know how that usually turns out, right?

Anyway, Hammel was a huge surprise to fantasy owners in 2012 and I imagine many of you picked him up off waivers and dropped him thinking that there was no way he was going to keep this up. Hammel ended the season with an 8-6 record in 20 starts, with a 3.43 ERA, 3.29 FIP, 3.46 xFIP, a 1.24 WHIP and a 113-42 strikeout to walk ratio in 118 innings pitched.

Hammel's improved his peripheral stats across the board in 2012, which is surprising since he was moving from the NL West to the AL East. But, after the changes we saw in the AL East this season, I think it isn't the best division in baseball anymore. Let's take a look at his peripheral stats, comparing his 2011 season to his 2012 season:

2011: 4.97 K/9, 3.59 BB/9, 1.11 HR/9, 43.9% GB%

2012: 8.62 K/9, 3.20 BB/9, 0.69 HR/9, 53.2% GB%

Hammel enjoyed improvement across the board this season, improving his strikeout rate, reducing his walk rate and HR/9, and inducing a lot more ground balls than ever before. Actually, his strikeout rate was the best of his career. According to FanGraphs, he also improved his swinging strike rate from 6.5% to 9.9% this season. Hitters also had a tough time making contact on him, as outside the zone, in the zone and overall contact rates all dropped this season.

So, what can we expect from Hammel next year? Can he repeat the success he enjoyed this season in 2013? I could see drafting him in a later round in mixed league drafts on the belief that he could repeat, but I would have a quick trigger to drop or bench him should he resort to the starter we knew back in Colorado.

What do Fake Team's readers think? Can he repeat his 2012 performance in 2013? Make sure you let your voices be heard and vote in the poll and post a comment with your thoughts.

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