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Entries in trade (12)

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.  

Saturday
Nov102012

Grounders Grind Justin Upton's Progress to a Halt

Who is Justin Upton -- the guy who hit 31 home runs in 2011 and seemed set to join baseball's inner circle of sluggers, or the guy who went deep just 17 times in 2012 and drew the ire of Uptown? GMs must ask themselves this question before piecing together a trade package for the 25-year-old, who is once again on the market according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. If Upton is to re-establish himself as one of the game's great young talents, he'll have to cut back on the power-sapping ground balls that became all too common in 2012.

In 2011, Upton's ground ball rate (about 37%) was far below the average for big league hitters (about 44%). He rolled over when he chased below the knees, but he otherwise put the ball in the air more than the average hitter:

Upton's ground ball rate by pitch location, 2011

In 2012, however, Upton hit far more grounders on low and low-and-away offerings:

Upton's ground ball rate by pitch location, 2012

His ground ball rate spiked to a league-average 44%, as pitchers pounded him at the knees more often. Upton got a low pitch half of the time in 2012, up from 46% in 2011 (the MLB average is about 41%). He had the biggest increase in grounders on breaking stuff:

Upton's ground ball rate by pitch type in 2011 and 2012

Pitch20112012MLB Avg.
Fastball 32.3 37.6 40.9
Sinker 43.8 48.7 53.1
Curveball 48.6 61.5 50.3
Slider 39.8 53.3 44.9
Changeup 41.2 37.3 48.7

 

It's possible that Upton has already started to adjust to the deluge of low pitches: He decreased his ground ball rate to 2011 levels during the last month of the 2012 season (36%) while hitting six homers and slugging north of .500. Upton has to keep lofting pitches to tap into his considerable power, no matter what uniform he's wearing next spring.

Tuesday
Aug212012

Pence's Impatience Costing Him with Giants

Hunter Pence, by all accounts, is an enthusiastic fellow. Pence runs out routine grounders like he's squaring off against Usain Bolt. He's known to crash into walls and even the occasional sliding glass window. But Pence has been a little too gung-ho in the batter's box since being traded from the Phillies to the Giants on July 31. And it's costing him and his new club.

Pence wasn't exactly a strike-zone guru with Philly, but both his 8.4% walk rate and 19.3% strikeout rate were right around the MLB average in 2012. With San Francisco, however, Pence has drawn a walk just 4.8% of the time and he has punched out 26.2%.

With the Phillies, Pence swung at plenty of high pitches out of the zone. Despite that, his overall 29.2% chase rate was close to the MLB average (28.5%):

Pence's swing rate by pitch location with the Phillies, 2012

 

Since changing coasts, Pence's strike zone has practically stretched from Philly to San Fran:

Pence's swing rate by pitch location with the Giants, 2012

 

Pence has chased 37% of pitches thrown out of the zone in San Francisco. He's 1-for-24 on those outside pitches, striking out 16 times in the process. While Pence's pep endears him to teammates, he's got to tone it down at home plate to help the Giants' playoff prospects.