The Angels took a big gamble trading for Tommy Hanson in the off-season. Will he bounce back and push the Angels rotation to the next level or will he turn out to be the second coming of Scott Kazmir?
2012 Stats: 174.2 IP, 13-10, 4.48 ERA. 4.57 FIP, 183 H, 71 BB, 27 HR, 161 SO, 1.01 GB/FB, 1.0 fWAR
2013 ZiPS Projections: 169.2 IP, 11-10, 3.92 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 166 H, 57 BB, 22 HR, 149 SO, 2.1 fWAR
2013 Bill James Projections: 160.0 IP, 9-9, 3.66 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 142 H, 61 BB, 18 HR, 156 SO
2013 CAIRO Projections: 169.1 IP, 11-8, 3.98 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 165 H, 58 BB, 21 HR, 150 SO
2013 MWAH Projections*: 165.0 IP, 13-10, 4.31 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 165 H, 69 BB, 23 HR, 144 SO
*The MWAH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research (my wOBA and FIP calculations are approximate)
2012 in Objective Review:
There is no sugarcoating it, Hanson had a terrible 2012 campaign. His ERA jumped nearly a full run. His K/9 rate dropped by 1.5 and his BB/9 rate increased by half a walk. He also gave up 27 homers, ten more than his previous career high. He got worse last season. A lot worse.
A major reason for that was that Hanson lost 1.5 MPH off his fastball… for the second straight year. There was no official mention of his shoulder impingement or tendinitis or rotator cuff strain or whatever the Braves wanted to call it from 2011, but Hanson did do a brief stint on the disabled list with a lower back strain.
The degrading performance clearly scared off the Braves who decided to trade away Hanson after the season in exchange for the talented but challenged Jordan Walden despite Hanson flashing ace caliber performance the first two years of his four-year career.
2012 in Revisionist History:
The trends with Hanson are pretty scary. He is throwing softer, with less command and getting hit more often and a lot harder. There is nothing encouraging to find there. Given that he was so hittable, we can't even chalk up his spike in BABIP (from .268 to .314) to bad luck. His stuff simply isn't that good anymore.
The source of his problems is no mystery either. Hanson began having shoulder issues in 2011 and he hasn't been the same since. Given how screwy his pitching motion is, it is no wonder that his shoulder is messed up and probably won't be getting better. That is something he'd be wise to recognize because despite his decreased fastball and duller stuff, his pitch mix remained almost exactly the same. I didn't see much of him personally, but the numbers suggest that he really didn't do much to adjust for his reduced ability. There are some articles I see suggesting that he modified his delivery for the 2012 season, but it obviously didn't help. If anything, it made things worse. What he really needs to do is focus less on his awkward delivery and more on changing up his plan of attack on the mound.
One of the biggest side effects of his diminished ability is that Hanson is now incredibly susceptible to left-handed hitting. Lefties pounded him for a .526 slugging percentage, a trend that began in 2011. That is yet another indicator that Hanson is going to have to learn some new tricks if he wants to survive life in the not quite so fast lane.
Three Lingering Questions for 2013:
1) Is Hanson going to be able to recover his velocity?
Mike Scioscia has "no doubt" he will. What he bases that on is beyond me though. What I delved into yesterday is that in all likelihood, his velocity is gone forever.
2) Can he survive with a reduced fastball?
His 2012 campaign suggests that he definitely cannot. There is still time and hope here though as Hanson is quite young and re-dedicated himself to getting in shape this off-season. If he is willing to change up his pitching approach, he might be able to morph into a decent mid-rotation guy, assuming his fastball never returns.
3) Will Hanson be able to handle the American League?
In twelve career starts against the AL, Hanson has not faired well, posting a 4.06 ERA, 1.52 WHIP and 1.47 K/BB rate but he did perform quite well in three of his four interleague starts last year. Neither is particularly conclusive given the small sample sizes. The real issue is the history of guys who don't throw over 90 not being able to handle the AL very well, which is why there is so much added focus on Hanson's velocity.,
Three Irrelevant Questions for 2013:
1) Are you sick of hearing about Hanson's lost velocity yet?
Even if you are, tough, because I've got more to say about it and, frankly, it is going to be a major storyline with him throughout the year.
2) Who the hell taught Hanson to throw like he does?
Whoever they are, they must be stopped otherwise there is going to be a torn rotator cuff epidemic amongst America's youth. Won't somebody please think of the children?!?!
3) Does Tommy have a soul?
I'm not spiritual, so I can't answer definitively, but I do know that Hanson is a ginger, so…
2013 in Subjective Projection:
Curiously, most of the projection systems see a pretty substantial rebound for Hanson in 2013, but my guess is that is more a function of his relatively short career providing a small sample size and the projection systems being unable to account for his velocity problems. I still see him getting better, but not by that much, it might even just be a dead cat bounce rather than any actual improvement in his ability.
His improved physical conditioning gives me hope that his back and shoulder are more able to hold up throughout the season, but mostly I think he is going to see improvement from playing in a more pitcher friendly park in a league that hasn't really seen him before.
The place where Hanson really loses me is that he didn't just lose velocity, he lost command as well. That makes me think there is something larger that is wrong with him physically and/ or mechanically to compensate for his new physical limitations. In a lot of ways, he reminds me Scott Kazmir, a young talented potential ace who went off the rails quickly because of arm problems and lost velocity. Hanson may not be quite as far gone since there is obviously still enough talent there for him to keep missing bats at an 8.3 K/9 level, but you don't have to look to hard to see the other parallels.
I'd really like to think that the Halos could do something with Hanson to adjust his delivery or his plan of attack to take advantage of whatever it is he does to still generate whiffs and minimize whatever he is doing to allow all the hard contact. It certainly isn't an impossibility, but with Mike Butcher in charge of that turnaround, you'll have to forgive me if I lack faith. After all, Butcher was supposed to have a unique relationship that would help him salvage Kazmir but, if anything, Butcher only hastened Kazmir's decline. Given that, let's set the bar low and hope that Butcher can merely stop Hanson from declining further.