What I am about to write may not be very popular. In fact, I'm sure it won't be.
Six weeks ago, I wouldn't have believed I would be advocating this. It's a reality that has been tough to come to grips with, but it's a reality that the Braves must face so they can move forward.
There is absolutely no way Tommy Hanson can be allowed to be a part of the postseason starting rotation.
When Hanson came up as a rookie, it seemed that the sky was the limit for him—he possessed a strong fastball, a killer slider and a promising curveball that projected him as a definite No. 2 starter with a ceiling of staff ace.
The naked truth though is that the Tommy Hanson of 2012 is simply not the same Tommy Hanson that was heralded as the next Atlanta Braves ace. Injuries and mechanics have ravaged his right arm, his potential and perhaps his future.
Can he ever become the pitcher he was supposed to be? I hope so, but everything is trending down for Hanson. He has lost a lot of velocity—three miles an hour on his fastball and curveball, two miles an hour on his change-up and four miles an hour on his slider.
The spin on his slider is loose, his command is lacking and the advanced metrics doesn't help him out any—his 4.65 FIP and 1.44 WHIP suggest that he is pitching worse than his 4.46 ERA lets on.
Unfortunately, my disposition towards Tommy Hanson's abilities has decayed to the point that I no longer expect anything but misfortune when he takes the hill. And on September 21, I reached my breaking point.
I watched Hanson employ his weakened fastball, loosened slider and spotty command against the Philadelphia Phillies and I found myself cringing every time he threw a pitch over the heart of the plate. Through just five-and-a-third innings, Hanson gave up three walks, four hits, three home runs and five earned runs.
I wish I could tell you of my sunny disposition towards Hanson's future starts, especially those in the postseason, but from where I stand, I just don't see it. I don't believe you need velocity to succeed; Jered Weaver, Tim Hudson and even Kris Medlen have shown us this much. However, they have two things that Hanson doesn't, great command and an out pitch—Weaver has a great slider, Hudson uses a series of sinking fastballs and Medlen possesses a devastating change-up.
Could it be that the once "Golden Boy" of the pitching staff would be detrimental to the Braves World Series hopes if employed as a starter? Considering the fact that Hanson is the worst-performing 2012 Braves starter, it very well could be.
Take this into account: due to increased rest in the playoffs, postseason rotations typically consist of four men. Assuming Atlanta rolls with its best four starters, who would toe the October rubber?
Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen are absolute locks, there is no argument here.
Since July 5, Mike Minor has pitched 81.1 innings and allowed 58 hits and just 17 walks to pair with his 2.32 ERA and .203 opponent average. He's not only been on a tear, he's turned a major corner. He's in if the Braves have any sense.
Paul Maholm has had two hiccups in September, but even with those 13 runs in 6.1 innings, he's pitched to the tune of a 3.39 ERA since April 21. He bounced back against Miami on September 18 though, pitching nearly seven innings of four-hit, one-walk ball. He makes for a very nice back-end starter.
Not only does Tommy Hanson not hold any water in the comparisons against the other men in the Braves rotation, he also wouldn't be able to stand up to comparisons with a healthy Ben Sheets. If Sheets is back and ready to go for the playoffs, he could conceivably start if needed to—his experience and veteran guile would be more valuable than Hanson's propensity to get hit hard.
I'm not a pessimist. I hope Tommy Hanson can get back to where he was in 2010.
But there's no way I'm starting him in the postseason.