Every once in awhile my snark and cynicism sparks an actual legitimate idea. Yesterday, I was mocking the report that Jason Vargas would start Tuesday but that Scioscia was still undecided whether or not it would be Tommy Hanson or Jerome Williams would be bumped from the rotation. Ha! Surely Scioscia must be jesting? Why would that even be a question? I scoffed at this obvious charade.
I mean, why wouldn't the Angels remove Williams from the rotation? He has been terrible lately and has made it clear that he doesn't have what it takes to be a starting pitcher in this league. Hanson has been pretty awful himself, but there is at least some upside there. They might as well give Hanson every opportunity to righ the ship and save himself from being non-tendered this off-season. The only reason to kick Hanson out of the rotation would be to see if he can convert into a quality reliever. What a stupid idea that wou-
Once again my sarcasm has been my undoing. Converting Hanson into a reliever might actually be a great idea.
As mentioned in my snarky rant (which came before the news that Hanson had been sent to the minors), Hanson getting non-tendered this off-season is practically a given at this point. His performance can generously be described as erratic. Mostly he has been miserable. He also hasn't been healthy. He's missed time in each of the last three years with injury and has a pitching motion that threatens to wreck his shoulder and elbow to a point that not even Dr. Herbert West can bring them back from the dead. No team in their right mind would pay him $45 million to be an ineffective and injury-prone starter when they have hopes of contending. Well, they wouldn't do it two years in a row.
Shifting Hanson into a relief role might be a way for the Halos to salvage their investment in Hanson. One of the main reasons that Hanson has fallen off in effectiveness so much the last few years has been due to self-preservation. High high-stress mechanics were a constant threat to his arm, so Tommy made adjustments. Those adjustments might have saved his arm, but they robbed him of command and velocity. He has reverted somewhat to his old mechanics in the last month which has allowed him to regain some of his velocity, but he still hasn't been very good. Perhaps in a relief role, Hanson would be less concerned about the stress of his delivery since he would be pitching fewer innings in shorter bursts. That would allow him to head out there, go all the way back to the mechanics he used in his early successful days and just let it rip. No more holding back because he's worried that his shoulder is going to explode.
If he committed to the mechanics and all-out effort Hanson could go back to averaging 93 MPH on his heater which would allow him to rely on the fastball more. He only throws the pitch 44% of the time now as he has devolved into a junkballer. He'd also be able to trim down his repertoire, scrapping his ineffective changeup and becoming less reliant on his inconsistent curve. If it all falls right, Hanson has the innate talent to be a highly effective reliever that could be a factor in the late innings for the Angels next year.
On the other hand, his recent mechanical revision has only allowed him to recover some of his velocity. That ability to average 93 MPH may not be in him physically anymore. Similarly, the increased velocity hasn't helped be anymore effective. His command is still shaky and he is still vulnerable to the longball. He could end up being just as bad as he was in the rotation and the all-out effort might only hasten the demise of his pitching arm even with the decreased workload.
The beauty of it though is that if it does blow up in their face, the Angels really aren't losing that much. Their bullpen stinks out loud right now, so adding another lousy reliever to the mix isn't going to make much of a difference. It isn't like they care all that much about their record right now anyway. But if it does workout, the Angels get one guy they can count on out of the 'pen going into 2014, raising their grand total of reliable relievers to one.
Truth be told, I don't think it will work. Hanson seems to far gone at this point. But he is so far gone that the team has sent him to the minors rather than watch him work out his issues in the majors. They might as well pull out all the stops to see if there is anything worth salvaging in Hanson before they have to make that fateful non-tender decision rather than just have him waste away in Salt Lake.