Tommy Hanson’s velocity is back up

In July 2012, I write about Tommy Hanson‘s velocity dropping due to his new mechanics that the Atlanta Braves foisted on him. The idea was to cut out the pause in his delivery and to help him control the running game (which worked) and possibly reduce injury potential (which didn’t) without changing his stuff (it got worse).

As a reminder, here was the old Tommy Hanson pre-pause and the new Tommy Hanson post-pause:

I also said:

Hanson seems to use less violent rotation in the lower half in his revamped delivery, which he alluded to when interviewed about the subject. While he’s cut down the “pause,” it’s still noticeable. I think it’s misguided to say that the “pause” in his delivery is responsible for posterior shoulder stress; Hanson’s upper body is simply too linear into follow through, which cuts off the deceleration path his arm can follow.

Someone on Twitter noted that Hanson’s velocity was significantly up after his month layoff, and sure enough, they were correct:

Hanson Velocity Graph

Bringing back the pause

A leading theory in pitching mechanics analysis is that a free-flowing and easy arm action that continuously accelerates into maximum external rotation (MER) is positively correlated with ball release velocity. However, there’s no research out there that indicates that this is true—and I wrote about this on my blog regarding a Chicago White Sox pitcher who throws exceptionally hard, Nate Jones. Both Jones and Hanson have (or had) a significant pause in their delivery, and both threw with above-average velocity (in Jones’ case, well above-average).

Tommy Hanson seems to have gotten the point. Take a look at an 89 MPH fastball from earlier in 2013 compared to a 93 MPH fastball from his recent start:

Hanson Pitching Mechanics Comparison

The money comparison is during the arm cocking phase of the delivery—just look at how rotational velocity massively increases despite a “lagging” arm:

image

On July 23rd when he used the “pause” arm action, Tommy Hanson‘s velocity was way up, his strikeouts were through the roof, he didn’t walk anyone, and he only gave up a single run (yeah, it was against the Minnesota Twins, I know). Sure, maybe he controlled the running game a bit better with the easier arm action, but at what cost?

Injury implications

Tommy Hanson is still unlikely to be a durable pitcher going forward, which I’m sure isn’t a surprising statement given his history. However, the glaring issues with the recoil and poor deceleration phase still plague him despite the arm action change, so I would expect shoulder issues to continue to bother him throughout his career, with a possible major operation required on his arm. Still, Hanson was flat-out terrible in 2012 and 2013 with the “new and improved” mechanics—and if this means he gets to effectively pitch instead of getting shelled, that’s an upgrade at least.

Perhaps in the off-season he can make the mechanical changes required to help him stay healthier. But for now, it looks like the Tommy Hanson of old is coming back. And that’s good news.


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Kyle owns Driveline Baseball and Driveline Biomechanics Research, and has authored The Dynamic Pitcher, a comprehensive book and video set dedicated to developing elite youth baseball pitchers. He is also a consultant for an MLB team and a major Division-I college program. Follow him on Twitter @drivelinebases or email him here.
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Garrett
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Garrett

Great stuff. Was definitely curious where this sudden spike came from. That has actually happened to a few Angel pitchers this year as Weaver and De La Rosa have also randomly added several MPH almost overnight like Hanson just did. Don’t know if it is a coincidence or if maybe the Angels are doing something new.

John Beamer
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John Beamer

Kyle—good stuff—how do you know it isn’t a park / gun / pitch fx issue. Have you checked other pitchers’ velocity on the same day to see if it spiked. It really is only in the last start that his velocity went up?

JKA
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JKA
Just watched Hanson being removed from the game in the 5th after giving back an early 5-run lead, although in fairness the tying run came in on a sun double with two outs. Noticed the good velocity (think he had 7 SO before leaving) and a nice hook – but the weird mechanics led to several walks and 100+ pitches….aside from the obvious injury issues, the other thing that seems problematic is that the hitters would seem to get a pretty good look at the ball with that hesitation…..Hope that Hanson can work these problems out, but when an organization… Read more »
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