Tommy Hanson’s Bandwagon

A question without a correct answer: Who is the National League’s version of Brett Anderson? The answer that felt right to me at the time of this writing: Tommy Hanson.

As common readers of these web pages know, Anderson is a favorite of the sabermetric community. Brett does well for himself in the big leagues, too. He does the surname proud by boasting impressive strikeout-to-walk ratios, inducing large quantities of groundballs, and doing so without the benefit of fanfare. Such qualities are therefore required of a comparable pitcher. Hanson seems up for the task.

The comparison is not perfect; Anderson gets more grounders, walks fewer, and has a harder time finding jeans. Hanson, though, is one of the most successful young pitchers in the majors. He notched is first 200-plus inning season last year at the tender age of 23. Since breaking onto the scene in 2009, here’s how he has stacked up with the Philadelphia four:

Cliff Lee: 3.20 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 3.47 xFIP
Roy Halladay: 2.61 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 2.98 xFIP
Hanson: 3.16 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 4.03 xFIP
Roy Oswalt: 3.38 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 3.65 xFIP
Cole Hamels: 3.67 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 3.56 xFIP

Depending on how much one buys in (or does not buy in) to the home run allowing and preventing ways of the bottom three names, then one could make the case that Hanson is the third best pitcher of the group. That sounds mediocre on the surface, but remember three things: 1) Hanson just completed his first full season; 2) the Phillies four figure to save the universe from galactic evils on a weekly basis; 3) two aren’t even men, but cyborgs.

Why Hanson isn’t more popular is anyone’s guess, although playing in Atlanta probably has a lot to do with it. Consider this factoid: Hanson made seven starts after September 1 last season. Only two starters made seven appearances in those 32 days and had an ERA under 2. One was David Price (who saw one of his appearances come out of the bullpen). The other was Hanson. Young pitchers making big-time starts for teams fighting for a playoff berth usually ends in grandiose superlatives, yet Hanson received nary a Cy Young vote.

Atlanta has perhaps the game’s most talented young outfielder and one of its finest starters. Those two are big reasons they’ll find themselves in the thick of the playoff race once again in 2011.

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32 Responses to “Tommy Hanson’s Bandwagon”

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  1. Powder Blues says:

    I’m happy to report that I own both in my dynasty league. Anyway, excellent write up – in my mind, Hanson projects to have a Mike Mussina type career and Anderson an Andy Pettite type career, assuming health for both.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Okay, so Hanson and Anderson project to be Hall of Famers.

      I just hope Brett Anderson doesn’t take a wrong turn at Mark Mulder Boulevard.

      I’m just goofing around. Both are very good young pitchers, and hopefully they do stay healthy and (Bull Durham Voice) good Lord willing …. things … will … work … out. (Voice Off)

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    • wobatus says:

      I’m sad to report that I traded Hanson and Neil Walker for John Danks and Adrian Beltre last year in May. Danks actually pitched about as well results-wise as Hanson after the deal (better for a while), but it was a deal to help me win last year (I didn’t, but the deal still helped my team overall), and now I don’t have Hanson. Woe is me.

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  2. Tom says:

    Tommy Hanson has been one of my favorite players since his initial call up to the big leagues. He has a presence on the mound that, in my opinion, only Halladay rivals. He takes the mound with much more confidence than you ever find in pitchers so young. Even with this confidence he seems to truly enjoy playing and he enjoys the competitive nature of the sport.

    He will be well regarded as one of the best pitchers in the game in the very near future. I think there are two reasons he has been overlooked; Jason Heyward and the fact he pitches in Atlanta. Successful pitching has been the norm in Atlanta for years and people seem to overlook Atlanta pitchers.

    Baseball is lucky to have such a bright young pair of stars on one team. Hanson and Heyward will be the core of a young, fun, playoff team for now and the foreseeable future.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      He has a presence on the mound that, in my opinion, only Halladay rivals. He takes the mound with much more confidence than you ever find in pitchers so young.

      Felix Hernandez would like to introduce his CYA to Tommy Hanson’s Presence. He’s bringing his buddy Timmy from down the coast. David by the Bay is coming too.

      Basically any young pitcher of high quality is going to have “presence” attributed to them.

      You’re not going to hear anyone describe a dominant young pitcher as “meek”.

      Do I even need to mention the presence of a certain young pitcher in our nation’s capitol. Does Hanson’s presence really rival that?

      At one time Dan Haren had “presence”.

      Presence seems to come and go with quality performance. Either its correlated with it, or it doesn’t really exist.

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  3. DrBGiantsfan says:

    He’s been a huge bargain for my fantasy team the last two years. I will be looking for him again in next year’s draft.

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  4. Bizarro RJ says:

    Hanson might not get any love in RJ’s world, but in Bizarro RJ’s world, or at lest in the NL East, Hanson is thought of as the ace in the Braves rotation. Would much rather face Hudson/Lowe/JJ etc than Hanson.

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  5. James says:

    I agree that Hanson is fantastic…

    But who doesn’t think Hanson is awesome? I thought that was the general consensus.

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  6. xrayxtals says:

    ESPN has Hanson as a top 20 SP and Anderson as a top 30 SP. That would suggest they are getting ‘sum lovin’, but I agree with everyone else here, 2011 should be great for both of them.

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  7. When it was coined the word “factoid” mean not “little fact” but “fact-like, but not quite a fact (think politician speak)” just like “ovoid” means “oval-ish, but not quite an oval.” Unfortunately, the primary definition has become the less interesting “little fact” one but “fact-like” is still proper as well. Below is how Norman Mailer put it:

    “Factoids … that is, facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper, creations which are not so much lies as a product to manipulate emotion in the Silent Majority.” [N. Mailer, “Marilyn,” 1973]

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    • GTStD says:

      Most of the time, I’m willing to let poor grammar slip by on web forums. This is particularly true of Fangraphs, where the readership is mostly stat-minded, and therefore a slight failing in grammar is understandable; however, if you are going to be a “grammar guy” on a baseball forum, let’s get a couple of things straight.

      The phrase “when it was coined” is a dependent phrase, and thus must be separated from the subject of the sentence by a comma. The first sentence should also have used the word “meant” to have the correct tense. In addition, to say it “meant not ‘little fact’ but ‘fact-like'” is an adventure in sentence construction. The word “not” is a modifier to the verb and thus should not be placed after it. You should have said “did not mean ‘little fact’ but rather ‘fact-like.'”

      Feel free to use whatever grammar, or lack thereof, when posting to a site like this one; however, when you are correcting someone else on it, use it correctly. Also, quoting a definition from 1973 does not adequately account for the development of language over time and the modification of meanings within the lexicon. Whatever the word “factoid” originally meant, in modern use, it actually does mean “little fact.”

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  8. Ronsley says:

    Disagree with point #3 above, Tommy Hanson is indeed a cyborg.

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  9. david says:

    If we’re going to say “one of the most successful young pitchers in the majors,” why don’t we compare him to other successful young pitchers in the majors, not the Phillies’ rotation. Throw guys like Gallardo, Latos, Kershaw up there and you’ll find that they’re all pretty comparable with Hanson while getting similar overall hype in the baseball world.
    I believe what you’ve demonstrated RJ, is that young, talented pitchers get noticed by hard-core baseball fans (whether or not they’re stats-oriented fans), but are underappreciated by the casual fan who might only name the top 10-15 career pitchers in the game off the top of their heads…

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    • Jason B says:

      The pool of young, talented hurlers, particularly in the NL, seems pretty astounding. Hamels, Hanson, Johnson, Latos, Kershaw, Billingsley, Wainwright, Gallardo, several Giants, Jimenez, etc etc. For all the things we can (rightfully) nitpick from time to time, on balance it’s a pretty good time to be a baseball fan.

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  10. BillWallace says:

    He needs to go to the intangible store and trade some of that presence for Jack Morris brand ‘pitch to the score’ juice. You’re not going to get sportswriter praise with 10 wins.

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  11. Jeffrey Gross says:

    I do not get the Anderson-Hanson comparison. Hanson has more K, less GB. It’s like comparing Zambrano to Ubaldo.

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  12. twoseamer says:

    I must say that my biggest problem with Tommy Hanson has as much to do with approach and mechanics than any performance flaw. The stats show his accomplishments, but he throws a tremendous amount of breaking balls when he gets into trouble. His fastball percentage last year was a reasonable 57% but he throws very few changeups. The closest comparable that I can come up with as far as pitch mix was the very capable but somewhat erratic Ervin Santana. I think Hanson is a marginal ace in his prime, but any loss of velocity (which almost always comes as guys rack up 200 IP seasons) will make him much less effective due to the shortening of the FB and the corresponding decline in the breaking stuff. If he comes up with a splitter or competent change up then things change.

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  13. Ivdown says:

    I agree, Hanson is a hell of a pitcher. He’s going to be the ace in Atlanta for a long time, and I hope he is not overshadowed because of the rotation in the same division with 4 very good, or 2 very good and 2 incredible pitchers in it. Hanson was really good this year, but I just find it funny that you talk about Hanson being so good, and Price is talked about so highly, and Brett Anderson, and then it seems like people rarely talk about Kershaw, who has done better than all of these pitchers so far in their careers.

    Hanson – 4.3 WAR in 34 starts
    Price – 4.3 WAR in 32 starts
    Anderson – 2.6 WAR in 19 starts
    Kershaw – 4.8 WAR in 32 starts

    Hanson – 2.6 WAR in 21 starts
    Price – 1.5 WAR in 23 starts
    Anderson – 3.7 WAR in 30 starts
    Kershaw – 4.2 WAR in 30 starts

    Anderson and Kershaw are the babies of this group, both being born in 1988. Price and Hanson are the older ones, being born in 85 and 86 respectively. I think that makes what Anderson and Kershaw are doing just that much more special. Anderson should have clearly won the 2009 AL ROY award, and was beat out by a teammate closer, who was good, but not better than Anderson. The funny thing about this is that Kershaw is the youngest of the group by about a month, and was in the majors a year before any of the rest of this group was. So to make things fair, I will post Kershaw’s 1st and 2nd year stats compared to the rest:

    2nd year in the league:
    Hanson – Age 24 4.3 WAR in 34 starts
    Price – Age 25 4.3 WAR in 32 starts
    Anderson – Age 22 2.6 WAR in 19 starts
    Kershaw (2009) Age 21 – 4.2 WAR in 30 starts

    1st year in the league:
    Hanson – Age 23 2.6 WAR in 21 starts
    Price – Age 24 1.5 WAR in 23 starts
    Anderson – Age 21 3.7 WAR in 30 starts
    Kershaw – (2008) Age 20 1.4 WAR in 21 starts

    Kershaw didn’t start out more dominant in his first year than anyone, in fact he was 4th in WAR in his first year of the 4. But what he did was put up a 1.4 WAR in just over half a season as a 20 year old who would not turn 21 until March of 2009. He then jumped from a 1.4 WAR to a 4.2 the next season at age 21. This is a 2.8 WAR jump.

    WAR Jumps From 1st to 2nd Year:
    Hanson – 1.5
    Anderson – -1.1 (though it was in 11 less starts)
    Price – 2.8
    Kershaw – 2.8

    Price was the only one to make such a big jump, though again at 3 years older.

    After looking at the numbers, it’s hard not to say the most impressive numbers have been from Brett Anderson, who had a 3.7 WAR in his rookie campaign, then a 2.6 WAR in only 19 starts last season. He could have cleared 5 WAR had he pitched the full season, or maybe just matched Kershaw’s total of 4.8.

    It’s clear that all 4 of these pitchers are worth any hype they are given, but such has been the case the last few years for him, Kershaw doesn’t seem to get as much hype as the rest.

    All I can say is that maybe it’s a good thing, so maybe he stays humble by not letting the talk of how great he is get to his head, and hungry to get that talk of how great of a pitcher he really is. I’m just glad he’s a Dodger, and hopefully ned will smart up some time soon and finally give out his first extension to a home grown player and make Kershaw a Dodger for at least the next 6 years or more.

    These are just the ramblings of someone stuck in bed sick with nothing else to keep him entertained, thanks for reading, lol.

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  14. neuter_your_dogma says:

    One little injury and Stephen Strasburg goes from HOF to unmentionable.

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  15. Da says:

    In such a small sample size, how can you just ignore the 4.03 xFIP and relatively “lucky” HR/FB rates? Hanson is still good, but there are a number of young starters in the NL who are equal to or better than Hanson and who get the same or even less hype. I don’t think he’s very special in that department.

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  16. SoundMaster says:

    As DA stated, his 4.03 xFIP lucky HR/FB figure imply his ERA may have been better than his performance. However, his 2nd half showed significant gains (albeit with a decreased K/9).
    Does that suggest the league adjusted to him early in ’10 and the 2nd half performance was his own readjustment to that?
    His ML numbers were startingly good and he’s now entering his 3rd year. I suspect we’ll get:
    3.30 – 3.60 ERA
    200 – 210 IP
    185 – 195K
    1.15 – 1.25 WHIP

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