After experiencing some success with the Cubs in back-to-back seasons, Jason Hammel signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the Royals in February of 2017. It’s safe to say Hammel’s performance last season was not up to the Royals’ expectations. At 35 years old, it’s hard to imagine the right-hander doing much better in 2018, but there’s always a chance. What will this year look like for Hammel?
If you haven’t read my Kings of Kauffman season preview for Nathan Karns, I highly recommend you do so! Each article will link to a previous season preview. This is the second piece of a five-part series previewing the starting rotation. Today’s subject is a player who experienced a few highs in 2017, but mostly lows. A player many had high hopes for heading into the season, Jason Hammel let many down with his performance. The expectations didn’t come without reason, though.
In the two seasons prior to signing a two-year contract with the Royals, Jason Hammel was fairly effective for the Cubs. Hammel went 25-17 in those two seasons combined and his highest ERA of the two campaigns was 3.83. Signing for $16 million over two years, many believed this was a fair deal for a pitcher of Hammel’s caliber but one year in, many now find themselves questioning that same contract.
What did he offer last season?
Although Jason Hammel set career-highs in starts and innings pitched in 2017 with 32 and 180.1 respectively, the positives end there. On the bad side, Hammel allowed a career-high 26 home runs, which definitely played a factor in his 5.29 ERA on the season. His K/9 was a pedestrian 7.24. A 4.37 FIP indicates a tad bit of bad luck could have been in play but nonetheless, Hammel was not a good pitcher, or even an average pitcher, in 2017. Notorious for his struggles late in games and so-called “adjustments” that acted more as band-aids, Hammel was never able to get any momentum going and keep it for an extended period of time. It was not the season he (or anyone else within the Royals organization) had hoped for. Finishing the season with an 8-13 record certainly left a sour taste in the mouth of Hammel.
What can we expect in 2018?
Steamer doesn’t think Jason Hammel will do much better than the 8-13 record he posted last season:
- 28 starts
- 155 innings pitched (5.54 innings per start)
- 8-11 record
- 5.04 ERA
- 6.98 K/9
I think these are almost spot-on. It’s very difficult to have a resurgent season at the age of 35 (Jason Vargas‘ came at 33 and he was exposed in the second half), so I wouldn’t expect Jason Hammel to do much better than he did last season. While I think the ERA and K/9 are both accurate projections, I have to tweak the rest just a bit. I believe Hammel will make a couple more than 28 starts and, as a result, will pitch a bit over 155 innings. Because the offense isn’t projected to give Royals pitchers nearly as much support as a year ago, I’ll take even on wins and over on losses. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not very high on Jason Hammel in 2018.
Jason Hammel struggled in 2017. We know this. He was good in the two seasons before that. We know that. We don’t know the offense is going to struggle this season, but it’s very likely. A bad offense relying on a 35-year-old pitcher coming off a rough season to keep it in the game is a very dangerous situation. Don’t expect it to end in the Royals’ favor. When I look back on Jason Hammel’s 2018, I hope I’m completely wrong and I’m looking back on one of the better pitchers Kansas City had on the roster. I just don’t see it, though. Regardless of what I think, the odds are against Hammel ahead of what could be his last chance to prove he belongs in the MLB post-2018.
What do you think, Royals fans? Is Jason Hammel going to put together one more good season? Is he due to be even worse in 2018? Let us know what you have to say about it!