2010 Season in Review: Tommy Hanson
Tommy Hanson was expected to make major strides in 2010. He did, to an extent. Despite a 10-11 record that was mainly due to the Braves bullpen blowing leads and the offense giving Hanson no run support, Tommy had a great year with a 3.33 ERA, 173 strikeouts, 56 walks, and only 14 homers in 202 2/3 innings pitched. The decrease in homer rate is very encouraging. Last season in 127 2/3 innings, he allowed 10. Looking at ratios, he posted a mark of 0.70 in 2009, and that mark fell to 0.62 in 2010...not the largest decrease, but a decrease nonetheless. That wasn't the only decrease in a rate stat for Hanson in 2010. His walk rate fell from a little bit high 3.24 in 2009 to a damn good mark of 2.48 in 2010, almost a batter less per 9 innings. That's very encouraging. And now, for something not encouraging at all...Hanson's strikeout rate. That also fell, down to 7.68 per 9 from 8.18 in his debut season. Half a strikeout per 9 innings may not seem like a huge decrease, but its worth thinking about.
There is something else I want to look at with Tommy concerning that strikeout rate, and that's his midseason split. Looking at Hanson's stats pre and post All-Star break, you notice that his strikeouts absolutely fell off a cliff after the break. Pre-break, his rate is 9.15 per 9, and post, it was 6.19 per 9. Three batters per 9 innings is a HUGE drop. But what caused that? Looking at his other peripherals, its tough to determine. Tommy threw essentially the same amount of innings before and after the break (102 1/3 before, 100 1/3 after) and allowed 7 homers in each half of the season (though 4 of the homers in the second half came in one start). His walk total went from 34 before the break to 22 after, which kept his K:BB ratio nearly the same when you account for the decreased strikeout rate (his mark was actually better after the break: 3.14, compared to 3.06 before).
There is one tiny little area where Hanson was a totally different pitcher after the All-Star break, and that has to do with the hits he allowed. Before the break, Hanson allowed 106. After the break, he allowed 76. That is one hell of a dropoff, but it can be attributed to something out of Hanson's control. I'm of course talking about team defense. The Braves defense tanked horribly after the break (a little ironic when you consider that "glove wizard" Alex Gonzalez was acquired during the break), which has been gone over ad nauseum around these parts. And its not a myth that Hanson was a victim of crappy defense: he allowed 8 unearned runs after the break, compared to only 3 before. Hanson's change in pitching style could have been a mental thing, on account of the bad defense behind him letting balls through.
When you look at Hanson's decrease in strikeouts, because he pitched the same amount of innings, he was allowing more balls to get into play. And where the balls went changed in the second half. Over his minor league career, Hanson always had a tendency to get fly balls. It started that way this season, and then tempered as things went on. Pre-break, his GB:FB was sitting at 0.65, which is a pretty bad number. More balls in the air = more balls that have the potential to carry out of the park or into a gap. After the break, that number rose to 0.90, which is good. More balls on the ground = more balls that defenders should be able to make plays on and possibly get 2 outs when there's runners on base.
Hanson was successful in the second half of the year, but this isn't the pitcher the Braves expected him to be. Throughout the minors, he was a strikeout machine who horrified hitters. He seems a little miscast as the control artist, but in the end, whatever gets outs is what I'd like to see out of him. In a perfect world, he'll put everything together next season, keeping the high strikeout rate from the first half of his 2010 season and combining it with the low walk rate from the second half of his year. If he can do that, the Braves will have a Cy Young candidate on their hands.
Today, we take a look at the man who started the season as the youngest member of the Braves pitching staff. The season didn't end with him in that position, though.
After an inspiring debut in 2009,