There’s a possibility that Tommy Hanson will be both over- and under-rated this year. There’s strong reasoning on both sides, but perhaps a recent tidbit of news can tip the scales in one direction.
Tommy Hanson is over-rated.
Though he’s now shown strong ERAs over the last two years, his xFIP has remained above four. He only gets ground balls at a league-average rate (41.2% career, 40% is about average), and yet somehow he has kept his home run rate below one per nine (.65 career HR/9).
This isn’t sustainable given the state of research on the subject, and is most likely an artifact of his home park. Except that he’s given up more home runs at home (.71 HR/9) than on the road (.59 HR/9). Still, he doesn’t show Matt Cain‘s insane ability to rack up infield flies, and his deflated home run rate is almost all due to a tiny HR/FB rate (6.2% career). That number is closer to 10% across baseball, and he’s likely to give up more home runs in the future.
And, with a strikeout rate that is mostly meh (7.87 K/9), those home runs will hurt.
Tommy Hanson is underrated.
It’s funny that you should mention that strikeout rate, actually. Recent work at Beyond the Box Score showed that his strikeout rates fell late last year (5.17 and 5.84 K/9 in August and September, respectively, down from above one per inning across the rest of the year) – and then linked the fall in strikeout rates to his declining velocity. Though Mr. Apostoleris has some excellent graphs of his own, we can see that the FanGraphs’ pitch f/x charts show that Hanson has had this problem both years.
So, like many young pitchers before him, Hanson has had some issues with stamina in his short career to date. RotoWorld (quoting the Atlanta Journal and Constitution) provides us with a nugget of hope in this regard:
Tommy Hanson-S-Braves Feb. 1 – 9:33 am et
Tommy Hanson gained 10 pounds of muscle this offseason.
Hanson worked out at the Boras Sports Training Institute all winter with a team of trainers. “I felt like I did everything possible to get ready for the season,” he said Monday. “That gives me maybe a mental edge.” The 24-year-old finished with a cool 3.33 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 34 starts last season for the Braves. He struck out 173 batters in 202 2/3 innings.
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
It’s bordering on a “Best Shape of His Life” update, but this one has concrete information. He gained 10 pounds of muscle, and perhaps that will help him retain velocity deep into the season. More velocity means more whiffs, which will allow him to mitigate the damage any added home runs might put on his ledger.
Both the fans and Bil James project Hanson to improve his strikeout rate (8.51 K/9 for James, 8.42 for the fans) while putting up the worst home run rate of his career (.74 and .75 HR/9 respectively). Because his control is solid (2.78 BB/9 career), he will surely be a good pitcher next year.
In order for Hanson to be truly elite, though, he’ll have to show a strikeout rate closer to his minor league rate (10.7 K/9 carer MiLB), or at least over one per inning. Call me an optimist, but beefing up in order to maintain his early-season strikeout rates late into the summer seems like a good way to start. Call him “well-rated but with upside” if you need a moniker.
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