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Philadelphia's big winner is new fantasy ace

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - For the first time in his career, Cole Hamels is winning big.

Oh sure, the Philadelphia Phillies left-hander has always been one of the top arms in the National League, but his lack of victories always removed him from the list of elite fantasy aces.

Not anymore.

This season, Hamels has picked up victory after victory for Philadelphia, with each win adding more dough to the big money free agent contract he will command in the offseason.

Hamels (7-1) shut out the Washington Nationals over eight innings on Wednesday, holding them to just four hits while striking out eight.

The Phillies starter has won seven straight decisions after losing his first start of the season. He's currently the No. 1-ranked pitcher in the National League in Yahoo! fantasy leagues and the No. 2 NL hurler on The Sports Network's SSRD360 starting pitcher rankings.

Hamels' career high for wins in a season is 15. He achieved that total in his second season, when he went 15-5 with a 3.39 ERA. In the previous four seasons, Hamels has gone 50-41 -- good, but not spectacular.

Overall, Hamels has a 2.17 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, eight quality starts and 66 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings this season.

Aside from his K/9, which is up to 9.5 from 8.1 last year, most of Hamels' statistics and ratios are similar to 2011.

One stat that is vastly different, however, is his groundball-to-flyball ratio. In 2012, Hamels' GB/FB is 0.73. Last year, that number was 1.14, so Hamels is giving up more fly balls this season.

The thing is, aside from last season, the southpaw has always been a fly-ball pitcher, so his 2012 GB/FB is in line with the rest of his career -- 2011 was the aberration.

Last year, Hamels had extremely good luck on balls put in play, as his BABIP was .255. Many of the ground balls he gave up found gloves.

This year, as he's reverted to his heavy fly-ball ways, Hamels' BABIP has risen to .283, which is not too far from the league average of .290-.310.

Since Hamels' BABIP is so close to the mean, his low ERA isn't just a reflection of good luck.

The left-hander's home-run rate isn't that low, either. His HR/FB is 8.3 percent, 1.6 percent lower than last season and 3.1 percent lower than his career average. However, it's not too far from the league average of 9-10 percent, so even if he experiences a regression to the mean in that category, he doesn't have too far to go. As a result, his expected fielding independent pitching (xFIP) is 2.89, fourth-lowest in baseball.

Surprisingly, the main reason Hamels' winning percentage is on the rise is because he's received more offensive support than he has since 2007. Though Philadelphia's offense has improved as of late, the Phillies were owners of one of the most anemic attacks in baseball over the first four weeks of the season. The Phillies' sluggish start with the lumber hurt Philadelphia's other two aces, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee -- the pair have combined for four wins, none by Lee -- but not Hamels.

And while even the most optimistic of fantasy owners don't expect them to return to prime form, Philadelphia's offense figures to improve upon the return of No. 3 hitter Chase Utley and cleanup hitter Ryan Howard. The two are expected to come back sometime in June, so Hamels should continue to see help from the bats.

Even if his support slips from 5.5 runs per game, his excellent strikeout rate and solid hit and walk ratios should keep him at the top of fantasy leaderboards all season.

And while that's good for Hamels' wallet, it's even better for those who invested heavily in the lefty with hopes of a big-time contract season in 2012.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.


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