hangoverPrior to the start of the season, the Rays traded Jason Hammel to the Rockies for a double-A pitching prospect Aneury Rodriguez. Since then, The Hammer has emerged as a solid major league starting pitcher for a team headed to the playoffs.

So why the emergence? Was it the change of scenery or the weaker hitters in the National League or better command of his fastball? Or was it the off-season knee surgery that went unreported in the local media?

Hammel is 9-8 with a 4.30 ERA. But dig a little deeper and you will see just how effective Hammel has been for the first time in his career. His 3.66 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) ranks 12th in the NL. Also, he has a solid 3.00 strikeout to walk ratio this season.

Let’s take a look at how that compares to some of the Rays starting pitchers this season…

According to somebody close to Hammel, the big right-hander had arthroscopic surgery on his knee this past off-season. The surgery was done to repair a minor injury that Hammel may have suffered in high school while playing soccer and was performed by the Rays team doctor.

As early as spring training, Hammel’s knee was 100% for the first time since high school. His comfort level was up and the flexibility in his knee was much less hindered.

We know the Rays prefer to keep things close to the vest, but failing to report an off-season surgery to one of their starting pitchers takes it to a new level. Are there other injuries and/or surgeries that are not being reported?

Of course, the Rays had few options in the Spring as both Hammel and Jeff Niemann were out of minor league options. But why trade Hammel when his value was low and there was a good reason to think he could drastically improve? And why let an injury nag for six seasons only to repair it for the Rockies?

Even a healthy Jason Hammel may not have figured into the Rays future given the talent that is still on the roster and in the system. But, it is easy to see a situation in which the Rays could have done better in the trade market than a double-A pitcher that went 9-11 with a 4.50 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 142 innings this season.

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13 Comments

  1. Gus, a casual fan says:

    You have to question who is evaluating the pichers. Was Sonny's 2008 win total so seductive that the Rays gave him the #4 slot uncontested and had Hammell and Neiman in that ridiculous pitch off? (I still think Neiman was the right choice, but it was a false choice). Why not give Hammell a shot in the bullpen in a more important role than he had in 2008? Certianly this team had many questions in the bullpen coming into 2009.

    If a guy is "this" close to being your No.5 starter, might he not be good enough to be your 7th inning guy?

    So EJ, Hammell and Kazmir will all be starting games in the post-season, and our guys are playing golf in Cougartown (anybody else notice that the new Courtney Cox TV series puts the fictional Cougartown on Port Charlotte's place on the Florida map in the opening credits?). Watch out for those 40-something realtors in the off-season fellas.

    And somebody drive Jim Hickey home from the Trop when they turn out the lights this season . . .

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  2. Brett says:

    You can ask the question of would of brought back better talent , but after last season don't you feel they did the best for the deal at the time?

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    • at the time? yes. but that is the point. if the Rays knew the surgery was going to make Hammel a better pitcher (or at least felt it was probable) then why not wait to make the trade until Hammel had shown some improvement (ie. Scott Kazmir)?

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      • Gus, a casual fan says:

        There is an old baseball saying that tall pitchers take longer to develop. Not sure how true this is, but Neiman and Hammell fall into that category. The other thing here is that the Rays basically burned a roster spot in 2008 to keep him on the roster because he was out of options (he pitched very sparingly, in ultra-low leverage situations). He usually looked terrible when he did get to pitch every three weeks, but they obviously thought he had long-term potential. Why do that if you are going to give him away the following spring. (Also, why not disable him in 2008 to get the knee surgery and bring up someone they had more confidence in).

        While it is water under the bridge, I hope the front office will learn a lesson and exhaust the bullpen option before traiding away promising arms in the future.

        Rays Front office: excellent calls on almost all position players in the system the last three years; the calls on the pitching staff, however, are not as good (and in some cases quite regrettable). Some changes need to be made there.

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      • Brett says:

        Well I am not exactly sure but wasn't Niemann 26 at the time of opening day? I don't know how long they could keep him down at the minors with that age. Plus if Hammel had the surgery Niemann would be up with out any more options.

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  3. Don says:

    As good as the D. Young trade for JB & Garza made FO look good, Nothing they have done since was good...Don't care about Hammel...he wasn't good enough to make the Rays....but EJ deal made me crazy, now all the morons who never said one word when the deal was done are now comming out of the woodwork to complain...Bullshit..
    Think of this...if the FO would have done NOTHING this year....
    No Burrell, EJ, Hammell, on and on, NOTHING ,we would have been there!

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    • Jason W says:

      They did sign Longoria, that could count as at least one good thing.

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    • Sublime says:

      Don,

      This is the one thing you and I see and have seen "eye to eye" on since the beginning! I've been saying this since last off-season! The EJ move was terrible! I said it then, and I'll say it now!

      Plus, Where is DirtBagFan with my $5 saying that EdWIN Jackson wouldn't be .500 by the end of the year. Pay me my money!

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    • cubfanraysaddict says:

      Don,

      EJ has been better than last year, but if you look at his advanced stats his TRA and FIP have only improved by ~.5, and his second half has been just flat our mediocre/bad. I kind of want to blame our pitching coach on this, pitchers seem to get worse under him (yet healthier) while Det's pitching coach according to reports helped EJax with his slider enough to make him an allstar in the first half.

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      • Sublime says:

        As far As Edwin, you have to factor in at one point, he had the WORST run support in the American League! Factor that in and to only have a 3 something ERA is good!

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  4. Sam A says:

    Hindsight is 20/20 and I'm not one to go back and second guess every move an organization makes, but the Rays have made a number of questionable calls in the pitching department. It's especially frustrating when they give up a cheap player like Hammel while acquiring overpriced veterans who aren't preforming.

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  5. Jason W says:

    It could be a combo of the surgery,weaker hitters,better fastball, and different pitching coach. I think it has to mostly do with the new pitching coach. Ever since EJ Kaz and Hammel left all 3 have done great and I am that belives it's because new pitching coach. I'm hoping offseason move#1 is fire Hickey

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