Cole Hamels and Rich Hill are very similar: both are lanky lefties (Hamels is 6 foot 3, 175; Hill is 6 foot 5, 205) in their first full season in the majors who pitch for decent teams. Hamels, though, has earned a lot more attention and accolades, including a spot on the 2007 All-Star team. Part of this surely has to do with age: Hamels is just 23, and thus qualifies as a phenom, while Hill is already 27. Even correcting for that, though, the general perception seems to be that Hamels is simply better, or at least has been this year. Is that true? Let’s look at their away numbers for this year (I’ll ignore home stats as a crude correction for ballpark effects):

Hamels: 92 IP, 3.42 ERA, 2.05 BB/9, 9.29 K/9, 1.17 HR/9

Hill: 82 1/3 IP, 3.83 ERA, 2.84 BB/9, 9.18 K/9, 1.53 HR/9

It seems that Hamels is better, yes, but not by much. The main difference is that Hill is more susceptible to the home run ball.

I’d like to do something now, something very dangerous and somewhat questionable. I want to subtract Hill’s May 22nd start at San Diego from his line and then do the comparison to Hamels again. Now, I know that this looks like a form of the old “if you ignore his bad starts, he’s really good!” selection bias game, but I don’t think it is. You see, I really believe that Greg Maddux, Hill’s mentor with the Cubs, picked up on something in Hill’s delivery that was tipping his pitches and relayed it to the Padres. Hill has faced the Padres twice this year, and he’s given up seven homers in nine innings. Now, if this were the Mets or Brewers, I wouldn’t be surprised. But the Padres? They’ve hit 119 homers all year, so that means that, in nine total innings, they hit 6% of their homers for the year so far off of one pitcher. It’s not an open-and-shut case, but I find the evidence compelling. So what happens if we subtract that start from Hill’s road line?

Hamels: 92 IP, 3.42 ERA, 2.05 BB/9, 9.29 K/9, 1.17 HR/9

Hill: 76 1/3 IP, 3.54 ERA, 2.83 BB/9, 8.96 K/9, 1.18 HR/9

Wow. Pretty much the same guy. Hill walks more people and strikes out fewer, but they’re pretty much the same.

I think Hamels, due to his youth, will probably have a better career than Hill. But right now, I think their differences are pretty minute.  So where’s the love for Hill?