Tommy Hanson, the Ultimate Pitching Prospect! His Debut Analysis

Richard NiehContributor IJune 8, 2009

KISSIMMEE, FL - MARCH 3:  Pitcher Tommy Hanson #73 of the Atlanta Braves throws during an exhibition game against Panama at Champion Stadium March 3, 2009 in Kissimmee, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

The long wait was finally over. The most herald pitching prospects of this decade in the Braves’ usual prosper farm system had his debut on Sunday and, just as anticipated tuner field was packed with crowds and everyone came to see the biggest name of the year: Tommy Hanson.

When the day is over, here is his performance: 6 innings, 6 ER, 6 SO, and ERA 9. A lot of fans will probably ask, is that right? What happened to this much hyped stud who should be a huge ROY candidate when he is called up?

I watched the whole game and happy with the result that Braves won. I, especially, watched the first six innings of Tommy’s outing and my opinion of the result is “He is a inexperienced pitcher.”


Ryan Braun’s final comment was that the Brewers' lineup was making sure Tommy can throw strikes in the first three innings and then they try to be more aggressive second time they see him.

If that is the reason Brewers can pound on him so hard, then I blame David Ross for the result. Obviously, at the season debut, the veteran catcher needs to lead the new pitcher and help him to go through the opponent’s lineup. However, was that really the case?

In the first three innings, Tommy’s stuff was off-the chart, 97 mph ball + 70 mph slow curve, both of them for strikes. He also used a few 85 sliders, but to be honest, no way can they remotely compare to John Smoltz’s slider, but the fastball and curveball was good enough to make good lineup, like Brewers, look like AA lineup.

After the first three perfect innings, things go down hill really fast. Three two-run homers plus a hard hit RBI single to right field. Brewer went out there swinging. Why they are swinging so hard? They had to, there is no way to get multiple hits off Hanson and try to get clutch hits off him, not facing that kind of stuff!!

The only thing they can do to beat him is to aiming on one pitch and hit them really hard and hope for the best, thus, they were practically guessing. The results turned out that they gambled on right spot.

It was a “the winners talk” situation. Was Tommy predictable? Probably, but a lot of other pitchers made mistakes and get away with it. Brewers punished every single mistakes Tommy made, which was a rarity.

I cannot wait to see Tommy to face that line-up again and see if they can get a handle on him again so easily. I personally think Tommy will shut Ryan Braun up next time he faces to Brewers. Therefore, I don’t blame Tommy and David for the game result and I am absolutely sure the result will be different and better next time.


The story of the game


Tommy’s pitching line was:

1 2 3 4 5 6

0 0 0 2 1 4

I can make up one million excuses to defend him but the result is, indeed, ugly. It is very obvious though to spot what went wrong. He did not surrender any solo homer.  He gave up a RBI double to a pitcher. I am not going to take anything away from Parra but I think he just back at it freely without any thinking process. That is what I called “luck.”

Well, anyway, I think it is safe to say that, from full wind up, Hanson was unhittable. From stretch, everything changed. His fastball was not at outside of the strike zone and velocity drop from above 95 to above 92 and up. Leave the fastball up was the killer for him and totally mess his pitching plan up.

Talking about pitching plan, it was very simple for him. Using fastball to get ahead and then use breaking ball to fool hitters. The usual plan for every pitcher in MLB but only half of them executes them successfully.

The bright side was that Tommy executed them perfectly until he pitches from stretch. He could not control his breaking ball for strike from the stretch so he was force to use fastball.

He missed a few close pitches with his heater, slider and curveball, even change up, and none of them were in the strike zone. So he slowed down and try to throw strikes, just like JoJo Reyes did when he was in trouble.

Note that, Brewers’ hitter was really in trouble. The velocity difference is so huge between his fastball and curve ball that they could not make a good swing and they could not wait on them because Tommy kept pounding strike zones. The only thing they could do was trying to jump on him at the early counts.

Trust me, which strategy never works, until yesterday. Once again Braves touched the unlucky side of baseball game. JJ Hardy was totally fooled by the pitch that he hits to short that became a error (it should be infield hit but I also thought he could handle it). He was swinging early and the result was good for him.

Then Tommy rent to stretch. The ball Ryan hit was not that easy to hit, a 95 mph high fastball. You cannot hit that if you don’t anticipate it. Ryan already made his mind up to swing early and guessed fastball. The home run destroyed Tommy’s confidence. To make things worse, Tommy gave up a run to a pitcher and I know Parra got lucky.

The same hitting philosophies again, just hack at any strikes. I don’t believe a pitcher can think about hitting another way like other positional player, so basically he was late on the pitch and it touched right field wall.  Once again, it was a confidence killer.

In the sixth inning, I have to tip my hats to Brewers. They still stick to their game plan and not panicking even Chipper Jones drove the impossible pitch to left field seat. Brewers kept put pressure on Tommy and try to get him early in the count.

Tommy’s confidence and stuff went right down hill and the only thing he could throw for strikes was 92 mph fastball right in the middle. Once again, Brewer’s executed very well to get lead-off man on and make Tommy pitched from stretch. That was the game changer for Tommy.

What can he do in the future?

He has the brightest future of all the Braves, maybe even better than John Smoltz. Smoltz went through some tough time early in his career as well, over shadowed by Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, even though he obviously had the best stuff of the three.

It is unlikely Tommy Hanson will face the same fate and his stuff might even better than John Smoltz. In fact, he was perfect in his debut if they can pitch effectively from stretch. Therefore, it is very obvious the next thing he needs to work on is his mechanics from stretch.

In my opinion, pitching from stretch will cause some decrease of the sharpness of the breaking ball and velocity but the command should not be affected too much if the mechanics is correct. Therefore, pitcher should try to pitch to contact and make hitters hit to fielders, rather than going for strike outs.

If pitchers want to go for strike outs, they should slow the pace right down and work the counts by mess up hitter’s timing. I thought Hanson was pitching way too fast when runners are on base, which played right into Brewer’s hand because they were looking for good pitches to hitter early in the count.

Well, I am expressing my opinion here but I don’t expect anyone to agree with my training philosophy. That is Bobby Cox and Roger McDowell’s job and I believe they will do their best to make Tommy the best young pitcher in NL. Maybe even better than Tim Lincecum or Cole Hammels.


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