Fact or Fiction: Tommy "Doc" Hanson and the Magic Mullet

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Doc Samson is a Marvel Comics superhero. To cut to the chase, Doc Samson was radiation-afflicted with superhuman strength - when his hair was long. His strength was proportionate to the length of his hair, so the longer it grew, the stronger he became; conversely, if a dastardly villain were able to shear any of his green locks off, Doc became weaker.

The first time I saw a picture of Tommy Hanson, was shortly after he hurled a no-hitter in the minor leagues, shutting out the Birmingham Barons down in Pearl, Mississippi. By this point, the cbtitses of the internet were bragging about how they knew about Hanson before Hanson was now suddenly cool. Casual minor league baseball enthusiasts researched to find out more about Tommy Hanson before their peers could. Fans suffering through the dredges of the 2008 season, now had a tangible face to associate with the beacons of hope developing in the minor leagues. But to this author's sometimes-eccentric thought process, I couldn't get over this Tommy Hanson's hair. He had a mullet.

Later that year, Tommy Hanson was sent to the Arizona Fall League to pitch for the Mesa Solar Sox. While continuing to sport the mullet, Hanson took the AFL's MVP honors, striking out 49 batters in just 28.2 innings of work. His peers actually started called him "Jesus."

So with the slow, slow off-season upon us, we can always use a whimsical, exercise in cherry-picking post to help pass the time and have a little fun.

In 2009, Hanson showed up to Spring Training still rocking the mullet, and we Braves fans got our first glimpse of how he fared against limited Major League talent. Naturally, for the obvious financial reasons, Hanson started the seasons in the minor leagues, where he made eleven starts for the Gwinnett Braves, striking out hitters to the tune of an absurd 12.2 K/9, while the mullet continued to grow to Neanderthal-ithic proportions.

On June 7th, 2009, Tommy Hanson made his debut for the Atlanta Braves on a beautiful Sunday afternoon game against the Milwaukee Brewers. I remember arriving to the ballpark very early and parking myself in front of the Braves' bullpen, so that I could watch this young phenom's preparation, and get a good first-hand look at his stuff with my own eyes. When Eddie Perez ushered the young Hanson into the bullpen, I was in awe of his ginger mullet, exploding out from the back of his fresh new Atlanta Braves cap. It wasn't the prettiest debut in history, but Hanson still went six innings, and struck out five, most notably in the second inning when he struck out Prince Fielder, Mike Cameron and Mat Gamel consecutively in just 12 pitches.

Throughout the next five weeks, the Atlanta Braves went 6-2 in games started by the mulleted Tommy Hanson, with Hanson himself going 5-0 in this stretch. But at some point after the All-Star break* Tommy Hanson suited up for the Braves, and something was different - the mullet was gone! What happened next was predictably academic: the Braves lost. Tommy Hanson gave up nine hits, and only struck out one. Just one start ago, against the Giants, Hanson had struck out eleven batters in an easy win. It was at this point, that I came to the eye-test conclusion that Tommy Hanson pitched better with a mullet, and pitched better the longer it got, and have continued to inject such absurd logic into all opinions I have shared in regards to Tommy Hanson on Talking Chop since.

*could have been at any point between July 9 through July 25 due to the lack of photographic evidence of the starts versus San Francisco and Milwaukee, but we're going to go with the latest time to make my story sound more awesome

Since the debut in 2009, I have always felt relief when Tommy Hanson's hair grew to mulleted proportions, and dreaded the All-Star Break, knowing that Tommy was going home, and was probably going to return all close-cropped and buzzed-cut. Depending on what numbers you're looking at, 2010 might be considered Hanson's worst year; it also happened to be the year where he started the season without the mullet, and just as it was almost grown back again, the All-Star Break occurred, and he came back without it. As far as eye-tests were concerned, I had all the reason in the world to believe that Tommy Hanson's success was related to the length of his hair.

But since we live on the internet, and no matter how much we would like for opinion = fact, that simply just is not always the case, especially when it comes to discussing baseball on the internet. 

So, I went through Getty's extensive photo library of just about every single Tommy Hanson start to determine the periods of his career where he had the mullet, and when he didn't. And then, with the expertise of our very own Jacob Peterson doing all of important number-crunching, we bring to you the following conclusions.


With Mullet
Without Mullet
Starts
31
46
W-L
17-7
15-15
IP
183.2
276.2
IP/S
5.92
6.01
ERA
3.33
3.25
ER
68
100
H
146
247
H/9
7.15
8.03
BB
74
74
BB/9
3.63
2.41
K
173
258
K/9
8.48
8.39
K/BB
2.34
3.49
HR
23
18
HR/9
1.13
0.59
BABIP
0.255
0.299
WPA
0.707
2.797
WPA/S
0.023
0.061
  • Doc Hanson (the one with the flowing mullet) simply WINZ MOAR with the mullet. A career .583 pitcher with the mullet versus a .500 pitcher without the mullet. That being said, it is simply a travesty that Tommy Hanson (the scraggly one without the mullet) has 15 more starts sans the mullet.
  • Doc Hanson is less hittable (7.15 H/9), with fewer batted balls landing for hits (0.255 BABIP), and strikes out slightly more (8.48 K/9) than his short-cropped counterpart.
  • Conversely, Tommy Hanson goes deeper into games (6.01 IP/S), has a better ERA (3.25), walks fewer guys (2.41 BB/9, 3.49 K/BB), gives up fewer dingerz (0.59 HR/9), and typically contributes a higher positive outcome than Doc Hanson (+0.061 WPA/S, +2.797 WPA). Such improved strikeout rates lead to the obvious conclusion that the aerodynamic drag that the mullet creates, hinders Doc's K numbers somewhat.

In conclusion, as much as it pains me to say it, but it turns out that Tommy Hanson is overall the more effective pitcher, over his mulleted counterpart, Doc Hanson. The wins and losses are superficial, compared to the very legit K/BB rates, lower HR/9 and ability to get deeper into games.

Cashing in this cherry-picking card, Jacob was kind enough to eliminate all five of Doc Hanson's post-All-Star Break starts from 2011, where he uncharacteristically decided to not shear off the mullet. The rationale for such cherry-picked omission was the very obvious shoulder troubles that flared up and inevitably preemptively ended his season in August. Considering at the drop of that hat, he suddenly turned into an 8.10 ERA pitcher allowing hitters to hit .313/.370/.626 off of him, I think it's valid to take a second look.


With Mullet
Without Mullet
With Mullet (pre-injury)
Starts
31
46
26
W-L
17-7
15-15
16-4
IP
183.2
276.2
157
IP/S
5.92
6.01
6.04
ERA
3.33
3.25
2.52
ER
68
100
44
H
146
247
110
H/9
7.15
8.03
6.31
BB
74
74
63
BB/9
3.63
2.41
3.61
K
173
258
140
K/9
8.48
8.39
8.03
K/BB
2.34
3.49
2.22
HR
23
18
15
HR/9
1.13
0.59
0.86
BABIP
0.255
0.299
0.233
WPA
0.707
2.797
2.126
WPA/S
0.023
0.061
0.082

As you can clearly, obviously see, Doc Hanson WINZ EVEN MOAR, at an .800 clip, goes deeper into games than Tommy, has a vastly lower ERA, allows fewer hits, and even fewer of those batted balls to land for hits, and churns out more positive results per start. Completely ignore the irrelevant rate numbers; his K/BB might be lower than ever, but that's because he's generating OUTZ without being so reliant on the strikeout.

In conclusion, Doc Hanson is the best pitcher on the face of the planet. He needs to never cut his hair ever again. If you disagree, you are wrong.

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