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Meet Tommy Hanson, Your New Atlanta Braves Starter

June 4, 2009 BY ALEX EISENBERG One Comment

The long awaited day has arrived as Braves fans will finally get a glimpse of the next great Atlanta pitching prospect. This article profiles that prospect, Tommy Hanson

When Tommy Hanson is on, he’s almost unhittable. He’s able to pin-point his mid – upper 90′s fastball on the black. He uses all four quadrants of the strike zone instead of limiting himself to one or two spots. He toys with hitters, mixing his pitches in-and-out of the strike zone. He’ll throw his breaking ball in the dirt to change the eye level of the batter before blowing him away with a fastball up in the zone.

I know a lot of people cringe at his arm action, but I’m not sure. Sure, he really snaps his arm hard, giving it a whip-like motion. But the whip-like motion symbolizes a loose and tension free arm. He also repeats it so well and has no history of arm-related injuries. Hanson seems to move almost in slow-motion throughout his entire wind-up, but really explodes prior to release, throwing the ball with tremendous arm speed, strength, and intent, something I love to see.

*Credit to Minor League Baseball

After breaking his hands, his arms rise, mirroring each other until the moment he’s about to bring his arm vertical. Prior to that point, you can see how the hips aggressively rotate forward, which is soon followed by the torso, and then the arm. The efficiency of Hanson’s kinetic chain of events is precise, which is a major reason he’s able to produce the kind of velocity he does. Hanson also does an excellent job of “coming together” just before release, meaning he keeps his glove-side arm from flying open and holds it firm out in front of his chest, which helps from a health and command standpoint. The only problem I see with it is after release, he allows his glove to slam into his thigh.

The major issue I have with Hanson’s mechanics from an injury standpoint is the major recoil in his arm after release. It’s a sign that he may be landing stiffly on his front leg, but I haven’t seen video with the right angle of Hanson landing to confirm that. He’s a bit of a tall-and-fall guy that relies heavily on his arm to generate his velocity, but either way, a guy that throws as hard as he does will always be at a higher risk of injury than somebody who throws in the upper 80′s or low 90′s.

The thing I really like about Hanson is — and this is especially true when he’s on his game — is that he consistently repeats his delivery down to the point of release. The fastball, curveball, slider, and change-up all generally come from the same arm slot and each pitch is thrown on the same plane. You can this below as we see the fastball on the left, the curveball on the right, and the slider on the bottom. Same mechanics, same release point, same plane, very little time to decide which pitch is which.

*Credit to MLB Advanced Media

There is some variation on the curveball, however. When he really gets good spin on the pitch, he’s able to minimize that curveball hump you see when the pitch is released from the pitcher’s hand and as a result, the curveball starts on a lower plane. When you combine that with the fact that it actually looks like a fastball coming out of his hand, the pitch has major knee-buckling potential. Hanson’s problem is that he will occasionally hang his curveball, leaving himself vulnerable to the long ball.

Hanson’s true breakout season coincided with him adding the slider to his repertoire. It was another breaking pitch he could throw for strikes and it is especially effective against right handers. It also put less pressure on him to develop his change-up into an above average pitch. The change-up is OK for now, but he doesn’t command the pitch all that well. The numbers are born out in his lefty/righty splits over his career:

vs. LH – 524 BF, 8.50 K/9, 4.32 BB/9
vs. RH – 816 BF, 11.56 K/9, 2.60 BB/9

While the hype surrounding Hanson is strong, there are issues he must continue to progress on. The problem vs. lefties has been touched on, as has the development of his change-up. But Hanson also must become more consistent from game-to-game. He’s flat out dominant when he’s going right, but he gets hit hard when he loses command of his pitches, specifically his offspeed offerings. Hanson is also an extreme fly ball pitcher, which will naturally lend itself to giving up more homeruns. It’s something he’s struggled with over the course of his minor league career.

So yes, while there are still things to work on, Hanson has clear No. 1 starter upside and a tremendous amount of potential — potential the Braves will start tapping into very soon.

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  • One Comment »

    • The Friday Frosty Mug of Root Beer said:

      [...] opted to release Glavine. Hanson will make his major league debut against the Brewers on Sunday. Baseball Intellect has an excellent scouting report on Hanson, with some gif images looking at his mechanics. They touch on the fact that his weakness [...]