Don’t Panic over Tommy Hanson

Atlanta Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson came into the 2010 season as a prized fantasy pick. Standing 6-6 and weighing 220 pounds, Hanson used low-90’s heat and a pair of plus breaking pitches to torture minor league hitters. The 22nd-round draft-and-follow selection from the 2005 draft punched out 10.7 batters per nine innings as a prospect, walking 3.1 per nine and compiling a 3.26 FIP. He then impressed as a rookie last season, posting a 2.89 ERA in 127.2 frames following an early June call-up. Hanson, according to KFFL, had a pre-season ADP of 64.

It seems disappointing, then, that the 23-year-old currently sports a 4.50 ERA in 90 innings pitched. Following two especially rough starts against the White Sox and the Tigers, a small number of angst-ridden owners have actually severed ties altogether — Hanson’s Yahoo ownership rate is 94 percent. What’s ailing Atlanta’s would-be ace? Nothing, really. He’s the same extremely talented, if rough-around-the-edges starter that garnered praise last season.

In 2009, Hanson had 8.18 K/9, 3.24 BB/9 and a 40.2% ground ball rate. This season, he’s getting more K’s (exactly one whiff per inning), walking 3.1 per nine innings and has a 37.8% rate of grounders. Hanson got swinging strikes 9.6% as a rookie (8.6% MLB average), and 9.5% during his sophomore season (8.3% MLB average). His contact rate is a bit higher — 77.2% in ’09 compared to 78.9% this season (80-81% MLB average), and he’s getting fewer first-pitch strikes (63.4% last year and 61.2% in 2010), though that’s still well above the 58-59% MLB average. Hanson’s xFIP is 4.11 this year, after he posted a 4.03 xFIP in 2009.

The main reasons for the wide disparity in Hanson’s ERA over the 2009 and 2010 seasons are his BABIP and strand rate. Last season, Hanson had a .280 BABIP. That’s not ridiculously low, given that he’s a pitcher who gives up a high proportion of fly balls. Fly balls, while far more harmful overall than grounders, have a lower BABIP than worm burners. In 2010, Hanson has been victimized by a .347 BABIP. That’s going to come down significantly — Hanson’s rest-of-season ZiPS projects a .292 BABIP.

His rate of leaving runners on base was very high last year (80.3%) and has declined to 69.8%. With runners on base in 2009, Hanson had 6.75 K/9, 4.22 BB/9 and a 4.81 xFIP, but he managed to avoid trouble due to a .230 BABIP. This year, he’s got 7.32 K/9, 3.66 BB/9 and a 4.63 xFIP, but his BABIP with men on has spiked to .342. Odds are, Hanson’s LOB rate remains closer to his current mark than that lofty ’09 figure, perhaps climbing to the low-seventies.

In both 2009 and 2010, Hanson has posted home run per fly ball rates well below the 11% MLB average — 6.9% last season, and 6.4% in his second go-around the majors. Turner Field did suppress home runs per fly ball hit by five percent over the 2006-2009 seasons, so it’s reasonable to expect his HR/FB rate to be slightly under the big league average. But he’s likely going to serve up more homers during the second half.

For the rest of 2010, I’d expect Hanson’s BABIP to greatly decline, his HR/FB to rise and his rate of stranding runners to remain close to where it currently is. He doesn’t have the skill-set of a sub-three’s ERA pitcher (who does?), but he’s also better than that 4.50 ERA indicates. At 23, with basically a season’s worth of innings under his oft-adjusted belt, Hanson’s pitching like a high-three’s-to-low-four’s ERA starter. That’s impressive, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him improve upon that level of performance as he gains more experience.

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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on and, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

10 Responses to “Don’t Panic over Tommy Hanson”

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  1. Galt says:

    He’s given up 21 hits in his last two starts (7 1/3 innings).

    TWO of them for extra bases. Yeah, I’d say some bad luck.

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  2. thebandogora says:

    Not to mention the bulk of his damage the past couple starts as well as the start against the Reds in which he gave up 8 runs (the one the Braves came back and won in the 9th) came with two outs in the inning. He’s being singled to death with two outs, something that surely can’t continue at this rate.

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    • KG says:

      I have to say, it looks like he gives up a bit when he gets a few runners on base, and can’t stop the bleeding. Perhaps it’s just a phase – as people say, he’s a young pitcher and they go through these things. I think it is probably split between an inflated BABIP and youth/growing pain issues. He does seem to have dominant starts then the terrible starts (CIN and CHW). When he gets hit, it seems to be mostly packed in an inning or two – like vs ARI, 5 runs in one inning and 0 runs the other 6, which leads me to think he’s having some mental issues with runners on base.

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  3. Jared says:

    You guys can buy low on Hanson. In fact, buy him off me.

    He’s posting a nearly ~44% FB rate and, combined with a meager 6.4 HR/FB, He’s about to give up mass homers, I can feel it.

    Full respect for the strikeouts, but you actually think this guy’s stock is low? I think any effect of a declining BABIP will be overwhelmed by more home runs. He sure knows how to put the ball into the stratosphere, it’s just there’s this stiff breeze keeping them from drifting over the fence.

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    • Mat Gonzales says:

      Do you mind publishing articles on this site of what else you’re feeling so I know what moves to make during the second half? Thanks.

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  4. PJ says:

    Thanks for easing my fears a bit. It is easy forget this si only his first full year in the bigs and he is bound to have some hiccups. It happens to the best of them.

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  5. James says:

    Jared if you are in a keeper league you an idiot to sell. If its a yearly league you probably can’t get enough in return so why trade him? If you watched his starts, as mentioned above, most of the damage has come from singles not getting hit hard. Of course all pitchers give up homers but this hasn’t been his problem and it won’t be in the future.

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    • Jared says:

      James, I’m not in a keeper league, and in fact I was just joking about owning him at all, but my whole point is that he’s *not* giving up as many HRs as he probably has deserved. So, to your point, indeed homers have not been his problem. But if he keeps pitching the way he is, they will be very soon.

      I know he’s early on in his career and I’d be excited to see him progress forward. I guess it was rude to call him a “sell high” while everyone else is panicking over him but I genuinely believe he’s in for more rough outings in the weeks ahead and, while he’s been unlucky with some wacky singles, he’s been lucky enough with fly balls not leaving the park that, overall, I expect a regression.

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  6. bvillebaron says:


    I am in a keeper league and I for one intend to keep Mr. Hanson.

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  7. atoms says:

    i’ve consulted the magic 8 ball and, based on its advice, have decided to hold on to mr. hanson on my fantasy squad. apparently he’s going to have a lock-down solid second half.

    it also told me that this will be hanson’s pitching line today against the marlins: 7 ip, 4 hits, 1 er, 9 k, 1 bb, win.

    i have a very specific magic 8 ball.

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