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Entries in Tommy Hanson (2)

Friday
Nov302012

Missing: Tommy Hanson's Fastball

The Los Angeles Angels acquired Tommy Hanson from the Atlanta Braves on Friday in exchange for Jordan Walden, adding a 26-year-old starter who once looked like a burgeoning ace but now has serious questions to answer about his health and his no-longer-fast fastball.

Hanson was a stud during his first full season in the majors in 2010, topping 200 innings and posting an ERA that was 17 percent better than the league average (117 ERA+). But he hit the DL twice in 2011 with a right shoulder injury, tossing 130 innings with an ERA just a smidge better than average (106 ERA+). This past season, Hanson again battled shoulder problems while throwing 174.2 frames and compiling an ERA that was 11 percent worse than the NL average. Hanson had the ninth-worst ERA+ among qualified NL starters, besting just Tim Lincecum, Joe Blanton, Barry Zito, Bud Norris, Edinson Volquez, James McDonald , Kevin Correia and Ricky Nolasco.

Hanson has to hope he re-discovers his fastball on the West Coast. His ERA has soared as his velocity has dipped: Hanson's fastball averaged 92.7 MPH during his stellar 2010 season, but he sat at 91.1 MPH in 2011 and fell to just 89.6 MPH in 2012. No longer able to bring the heat, Hanson has contracted a serious case of gopheritis.

Back in 2010, batters slugged .405 against Hanson's fastball (below the .430 average for NL starters) and hit 13 home runs. In 2011, Hanson's fastball slugging percentage jumped to .519, and he served up 11 homers despite throwing over 70 fewer innings than the previous season. This past year, Hanson arguably had the worst fastball among all regular NL starting pitchers. He had the highest fastball slugging percentage this side of J.A. Happ, who moved to Toronto to take advantage of the Canadian homer exchange rate:

Highest opponent slugging percentage on fastballs among NL starters in 2012, minimum 500 thrown

PitcherSlugging Pct.
J. A. Happ .595
Tommy Hanson .538
Christian Friedrich .531
Bud Norris .522
Ricky Nolasco .518
Shaun Marcum .514
Randy Wolf .509
Chris Young .505
Patrick Corbin .504
Joe Blanton .503
NL Avg. for SP .435

 

And only Yovani Gallardo gave up more homers with his fastball:

Most HR allowed on fastballs among NL starting pitchers in 2012

PitcherHR
Yovani Gallardo 20
Tommy Hanson 18
Clayton Richard 18
Homer Bailey 18
Edwin Jackson 17
Ian Kennedy 17
J. A. Happ 16
Bud Norris 15
James McDonald 15
Chris Young 13

 

If Hanson's shoulder is sturdy and his fastball velocity returns, the Angels probably won't regret trading a high-octane (if erratic) arm like Walden for a reasonably-priced starter who is under team control through the 2015 season. If Hanson's heat doesn't come back, though, they might have just acquired a red-headed Ervin Santana.  

Thursday
May052011

Prince Fielder's HR off Tommy Hanson

In Wednesday's game between Milwaukee and Atlanta, Brewers' slugger Prince Fielder took Tommy Hanson deep in the 4th inning.  It was the second lefty HR yielded by Hanson this season, and the 7th HR for Fielder.

Hanson attempted to work Fielder very carefully and for the most part his pitch location wasn't bad.  He started Fielder off with a fastball that just caught the low outside corner for a strike, followed by a curve that he seemed to get a bad release on, floating it up and away for a ball.  His next pitch was a fastball outside of the strike zone that Fielder fouled off.  On his fourth and final pitch, Hanson tried to slip a slider down and in on Fielder.  However, he didn't get it down as much as I suspect he wanted to, and it came into the bottom portion of Fielder's power zone.

Tommy Hanson vs. Prince Fielder 4/5/2011, 4th Inning
Prince Fielder's SLG% heat map Data from 2008 to Present (Click to enlarge)

From the video, you can see that Fielder was sitting on an off-speed pitch.  Since his debut in 2009, Hanson has gone to either his curveball or slider with two strikes 50.2% of the time.  On 1-2 counts, that number jumps to 58.7%.  It wasn't necessarily a bad strategy for Hanson.  In fact, when throwing the slider with two strikes, he's held opposing batters to a .193 batting average with a .272 slugging percentage.  And before yesterday, he'd yet to yield a HR on any of the previous 460 two strike sliders he's thrown.

But this particular slider was thrown to a spot in Fielder's wheelhouse, and he was waiting for it.  Just a great piece of hitting from an excellent power hitter.