Joel Hanrahan had an amazing break out season in 2011. He became the closer I expected him to be years before in Washington. He put up 40 saves on historically one of the worst teams in MLB. He also put up a career low ERA of 1.83 and his WHIP was also a career low of 1.05.
Was this a lucky year for Hanrahan or is it a change that will stick? I believe it will stick. Hanrahan's problems before 2011 had to do with his confidence in his fastball. Hanrahan is a classic fastball/slider closer, and he has a great slider with tremendous movement.
He also has a fastball that tops out at 98-99 MPH. Before 2011, Hanrahan threw his slider twice as much as he did in 2011, and he even worked in an occassional change-up. In 2011, he eliminated the change-up and threw his slider a lot less, and that made for great results.
First off, his fastball got better. In 2010, his fastball averaged 96 MPH. In 2011, it jumped to 97.1. He threw his slider half as much and the results were more window shopping strikeouts on hitters expecting the slider and more late swings for ground balls or lazy pop ups. National League hitters just never adjusted to the new Hanrahan, and he had insane success.
Will that success continue to 2012? Yes, but beware that hitters now understand that he is throwing his fastball much more often and then will be prepared for that. With that being said, if it remains around 98 MPH, then who cares? Here it is, hit it if you can.
The only thing that will slow down Hanrahan, besides some luck, is the Pirates. They played amazing baseball for their standards in 2011, and I'm hard-pressed to see it again in 2012. That means fewer wins, therefore fewer save opportunities for Hanrahan.
Now that being said, the Pirates have made several additions to both their offense and pitching that should keep them around 72-75 wins. It's just a matter of how well the team gels and how well guys like Burnett, Bedard and Correia end up pitching.
As far as fantasy owners are concerned:
The Closer Report 2012 Projections: 35 Sv – 4 Wins - 2.86 ERA – 1.19 WHIP – 65 Ks
2012 Fantasy Draft Analysis:
Hanrahan's ADP has him sitting at 126, which is Round 11. He is an intriguing pick at that spot, but I would not go for him that early. Getting the Pirates closer dictates that you wait until at the very least the 14th or 15th round to grab him.
In the 11th round, fantasy managers will have plenty of options for a closer that has more career success and is on a better team. Don't just draft Hanrahan because he put up big numbers in 2011, look at the big picture.