When I think back to the mind-blowing season the Orioles had in 2012, the name Jason Hammel keeps bubbling up in my mind. With a solid 2012 under his belt and a pending arbitration case, I thought it'd be fun to re-introduce him to O's fans.
The Tampa Bay Years (2002-2008)
Hammel was selected by the Mariners in the 2000 draft but turned them down to go to college. In 2002 he returned and was selected by the Devil Rays in the 10th round (247th overall). He made his MLB debut against the Orioles, oddly enough, on April 11th, 2006. We rocked him: 8 hits and 7 runs in 3.1 innings. After a not-so-good outing against Kansas City in his next start, he didn't appear in the majors until August 25th, when he faced Baltimore again.
He was called up to the bigs again in June 2007. He spent time as a reliever until getting the start against the Yankees on July 21st. After that he was a starter, getting his first major-league win against the Yankees on September 2nd.
He opened the 2008 season as a starter, losing his first two games but winning his next two. After a 2.2-inning, 6-hit, 3-run performance against the Orioles, he was demoted to the bullpen, where he stayed for the remainder of the year. He did not pitch in Tampa Bay's postseason run that year.
In April of 2009, he was traded to the Rockies for Aneury Rodriguez, a pitcher who's now in the Korean Baseball Organization. Hammel's legacy in Tampa Bay: 207.1 innings, an ERA of 5.90 (76 ERA+), a 1.46 K/BB ratio, and a WHIP of 1.640. Not the stuff that domination is made of.
The Colorado Years (2009-2011)
Shortly after the trade, Colorado GM Dan O'Dowd said of Hammel:
"We thought he made progress last year out of the bullpen. We think he's at a good age to turn the corner."
Hammel turned a small corner, maybe: he made three appearances in relief before being promoted to starter for the rest of the 2009 season. He greeted the move with an ERA+ of 109, his best to date and the best he'd have before 2012. In 176.2 innings, his most impressive feat was a 3.17 K/BB ratio, still the best of his career.
When the Rockies made the NLDS that year, Hammel made his first postseason start against the Phillies. In Game 3 of the NLDS, he carried a 2-1 lead into the fourth; unfortunately, he hit the skids, giving up three more runs in a 6-5 Rockies loss.
2010 and 2011 were more of the same. Hammel remained a starter but could never break through. In 348 innings, he notched an ERA of 4.78 (ERA+ of 96). Not fantastic, but not abysmal either. He was your average major league starter, trying to earn a living in the hitters' park that is Coors Field. In 2011, he signed a two-year, $7.75 million contract, buying out his first two years of arbitration.
Unfortunately, that didn't help. A decent run of starts in 2011 was marred by games in which he allowed 5, 6, 7, or even 8 runs. A 3-inning, six-run start against the Dodgers in August proved to be the final blow; after that, he was demoted to the bullpen (although he did make two more starts).
Having never showed consistency, and being owed $4.75 million the following season, trade rumors swirled, and this time, they were right -- on February 6, 2012, Hammel and draftmate (really) Matt Lindstrom were traded to the Orioles for draftmate (really!) Jeremy Guthrie.
The Baltimore Year (2012)
Hammel rebounded strongly in 2012: 2.8 bWAR, an ERA+ of 123, a WHIP of 1.237, and a K/9 of 8.6. Unfortunately, due to a knee injury, he pitched only 118 innings. Despite this, he started Games One and Five of the ALDS against the Yankees, giving up four runs in 11.1 innings of work. Not bad, but he was doomed to an 0-1 record by the offensive futility that plagued the entire Orioles team.
Hammel is hoping to parlay his recent success into a huge raise. His arbitration filing of $8.25 million is nearly double his 2011 salary. He's helped by his 2012 stats, of course, but hampered by his longer track record of mediocrity and memories of his mid-season knee injury. The Orioles countered with $5.7 million, and it's not too far-fetched the two sides could agree on a long-term contract.
I'll be honest: I was really excited about Hammel during this season. After years of suffering through terrible starting pitching, I salivated at the thought of having a serviceable major league starter at the front of the rotation. But in researching this article, I've soured on him a bit. 118 innings with above-average pitching can't outweigh 732 innings of less-than-average pitching. If he had more time under his belt, I'd be tempted to split the difference and call him an average major league starter. Here's hoping he makes some progress towards that mark in 2013.
Fun tip: Check out this fun profile of Hammel that reaches back to his high school days.
Everyone please welcome our final new writer, Ryan! He's a fresh face to Camden Chat, so be nice. -Stacey