At the time, trading ace right-hander Jeremy Guthrie in February seemed like a questionable. Most of the fan base complained at the time of the trade. Though he put up a 47-65 record in five seasons with the Orioles, Guthrie anchored Baltimore’s rotation and put up three consecutive seasons with double-digit wins from 2008-10 and recorded the only complete games in his career (four).
In return the O’s received two unproven pitchers–starting pitcher Jason Hammel and relief pitcher Matt Lindstrom–from the Colorado Rockies. Hammel, entering his seventh Major League season after spending three with Colorado and three with the Tampa Bay Rays, had two 10-win seasons in 2009 and ’10. But he failed to post an earned run average better than 4.33.
As for Lindstrom, the 32-year old righty has shown flashes of brilliance from the bullpen (3.09 ERA in 67.0 innings during his rookie campaign with Florida in ’07; career-high 23 saves with Houston in 2010), but has failed to be a consistent producer.
It appeared as though Dan Duquette had swapped his #1 starter for a couple of underachieving, inconsistent arms to add to a weakened pitching staff.
We are now approaching July, however, and Jeremy Guthrie has struggled to adjust to Coors Field while Hammel is having the season of his life. Lindstrom suffered an injury and has made just 13 appearances, but Hammel’s early success more than makes up for that.
At age 29, Hammel finds himself in the middle of the American League Cy Young discussion. Though it’s clearly still a bit premature for serious Cy Young discussion, Hammel is on pace to set career-highs in just about every major statistical category for pitchers.
In 14 starts, Hammel has posted an 8-2 record and 2.61 ERA with 87 strikeouts over 89.2 innings pitched. His first career complete game shutout came on June 16 against Atlanta, which also happened to be the first complete game recorded by a Baltimore starter in 2012.
Hammel’s head-turning numbers put him just outside the top five in wins, ERA, Ks and batting average against among American League starting pitchers. He also ranks 5th in the AL in WAR, 5th in FIP, and 4th in xFIP.
Sitting at 41-33 and just four games back in the AL East as of Tuesday June 26, the Orioles have been one of the biggest surprises thus far in the 2012 campaign and Hammel, along with his teammate Wei-Yin Chen (7-3, 3.38 ERA, 61 Ks in 14 starts), has been a huge part of that success.
There’s no question that Duquette has made some head-scratching trades as the Orioles GM. In fact the fan base as a whole has expressed its frustration over the issue in the past — especially with the Taylor Teagarden and Dana Eveland trades.
But one thing is for sure, the fans sure haven’t been complaining about the Guthrie-Hammel/Lindstrom trade that took place just a couple of months ago.
History shows that Hammel is not necessarily likely to keep these gaudy numbers up over the course of an entire season, but this could also turn out to be the start of something great for Jason.