Are you buying the Tommy Hanson hype? I do believe some sabre nerds could be missing out of a great pitcher because of perceived luck in his BABIP, HR/FB% and LOB%.
I may be tempering my enthusiasm for Tommy Gun because I already have him on my dynasty team, so there is no need for me to camp out in front of stores to acquire his services. Then again, it’s hard to not buy into the hype when you read stuff like this:
After excelling with three high-quality pitches as a rookie, Tommy Hanson has improved his fourth, the changeup, to the point where he’s confident throwing it in almost any situation. This is bad news for hitters. “It’s a lot better pitch now, and I’m a lot more confident with it”. Hanson already had a mid-90 mph fastball, devastating curveball and good slider, and upgrading his changeup gives the 23-year-old right-hander something softer to keep hitters guessing, particularly left-handers. He threw it last season, but wasn’t confident throwing it in some situations. Hanson worked on his grip with the pitch during the offseason and this spring, and has seen big improvement.
It’s nice to see his only negatively valued pitch (1.6 runs below avg) improving and that he has something better to offer Lefties. Hanson’s WHIP vs LHB was 1.52, compared to his 0.86 WHIP vs Right Handed Batters.
As for his 2009 numbers and “lucky stats”, Hanson pitched four months and posted a boner inducing 11-4 record, 2.89 ERA, 1.18 WHIP with 116 Ks in 127.2 Innings Pitched. As a 23-year-old rookie, those are amazing numbers, but did he deserve them? His xFIP was 4.03, his BABIP was .280 compared to the league avg of .303, he stranded runners at a 80.3% clip (league avg was 71.9%) and he posted a 6.9% HR/FB% (about 4% below the league avg).
No sabre stat is perfect and I know that xFIP normalizes some stats, including HR/FB%. However, some pitchers do have the ability to maintain a HR/FB% below league average. In some cases we can say forget xFIP. Why do I think Tommy can maintain such a low HR/FB%? He’s been doing it with his BABIP, so we know he has the ability to not allow batters to square up and make solid contact on his pitches. The last time Hanson had a BABIP above .290 was in 2006 Rookie ball (.308).
Hanson improved as the season progressed. In June his K/9 was 5.59 and his BB/9 was 5.28. This did not last long, his K/9 went up to 6.47 in July, 10.41 in August and 9.92 in Sept/Oct. Hanson’s BB/9 fell to 2.53 in July, 1.95 in August and 3.23 in Sept/Oct. People who expect his 8.18 K/9 and 3.24 BB/9 to improve are probably looking in the right direction.
So what do we have? A rookie who experienced some luck and will experience some regression or a once a decade stud muffin who defies logic? Could he possibly be the 4th Hanson brother? Did he ghost write MmmBop? All I know is that he’s 23, has plus control, great strikeout ability and 4 plus pitches. Batters and sabre nerds have a hard time figuring out what to expect. I’d draft Hanson with confidence and wouldn’t be afraid to help reduce his 80.66 ADP. Close your eyes and pull the trigger on Tommy Gun. I originally had him slotted 19th in my SP ranks, but I’m finally coming around and I’ll bump him up, maybe 13th, maybe even higher… I’m trying not to go too crazy tho.