Bailing Out Tommy Hanson

Yo dog, thanks for bailing me out... again.

Lately, there has been a lot of attention on Jair Jurrjens, and his dismal performance as of late. In 2012 alone, when Jair's been bad, he's been really bad, and the 14 earned runs over 5.2 innings in his last two combined starts have really put him in the negative cross hairs of a lot of Braves fans around the Country. Some want his head on a stake, some want him sent back to AAA-Gwinnett as soon as humanly possible, and then there's the camp that wants him DFA'd and bid good riddance. That's not very nice.

But from a lot of us nerds who have been poring over numbers and trends over the last two years, it's not like we didn't see this coming. Over the span of the last two years especially, FIP/xFIP pundits have been forewarning the regression to the mean that had to inevitably bite Jair Jurrjens; a fastball-changeup guy whose ERA defied his FIP, who relied so heavily on groundballs and the defense to chew his innings was bound to eventually hit the wall one of these days. Unfortunately for us Braves fans, the impact has been harder than expected; a combination of injury, disappearance of command, degradation of velocity or all of the above has emerged like a tidal wave and thrashed Jair Jurrjens thoroughly. But the point remains, to a lot of Braves fans, the severity of it might be a little surprising, but the regression of Jair Jurrjens in general, is not.

TC member Lennox pointed out something along the lines of what I'd been thinking for a lot of the season; Jair Jurrjens wasn't the only member of the Braves' starting rotation whose last two starts was abysmal. Tommy Hanson had also given up 14 earned runs over the last two starts, although spanning 9.1 innings. The only difference was however, the Braves won both games, with the latter game being the amazing 11-10 win over the Nationals which saw the Braves wipe out all eight of Tommy Hanson's forfeited runs in the process, bailing him out of the losing decision.

Such an instance got me thinking along the lines of "man, Tommy Hanson sure gets bailed out a lot." I decided to dig deeper. Now I'm not the B-R wizard that Jacob Peterson is, but from a fairly light graze of some numbers and names to compare against, the results are still kind of interesting.

You better believe the guy that started on the hill on the day Brooks Conrad hit his walk-off grand slam against the Reds, was Tommy Hanson. In fact, it's debatable that that game was more epic than the recent game against the Nats, because Hanson only lasted a woeful 1.2 innings and put the Braves into an 8-0 hole before the third inning even started.

The funny thing is, Tommy Hanson's very first major league game against the Milwaukee Brewers was just one of these games. I remember it vividly, because I was there:

6.0 IP, 7 R, 6 ER, 6 H, 5 K, 1 BB

Tommy made a pretty quick first nemesis in Ryan Braun, who took Hanson deep twice in the game, but Chipper Jones ensured that Tommy Hanson's debut would go victorious by hitting two home runs of his own, and falling a double short of the cycle, all while collecting somewhere around 13-15 bases in all. The Braves would win the game 8-7 overall.

But back to the point, I decided to look at two, well, three things. The record of the teams that Tommy Hanson and selected pitchers play for, when they allowed four runs, and the record of the teams that Tommy Hanson and selected pitchers play for, when they failed to deliver at least five innings. Both those scenarios are typically indicative of ineffectiveness, and/or putting the team in a hole where they wish to get bailed out.

For the sake of this exercise, I decided to go with the magic number four. If three runs allowed merits "the quality start," and five runs constitutes a blowout (according to B-R), I decided to split the difference and go with four runs allowed; I'm going with runs and not earned runs, because although it may not be the pitcher's fault, they're still against the pitcher and aren't any less detrimental. But then I also decided to look at the records of when they allowed five runs, because there's nothing more magical in baseball than coming back from a blowout.

The pitchers chosen as comparisons are the following: Anibal Sanchez (now DET), Ian Kennedy, ARI, Mat Latos SDP/CIN, and Clayton Kershaw, LAD. The rationale for Sanchez, Kennedy and Latos is because in terms of age and experience, they are the closest comps to Tommy Hanson, according to B-R. And Kershaw, the reigning Cy Young winner, was added as an outlier of elite level pitching. Also comparing Tim Hudson (2010-present) and Jair Jurrjens (2009-present) as the two Braves teammates to compare to as well.

Anibal Sanchez (Marlins tenure, 2009-current)

W-L

.pct

Marlins record when allowing 4+ runs

6-23

.207

Marlins record when allowing 5+ runs

.125

Marlins record when pitching less than 5.0 innings

3-12

.200

The biggest deficit that Sanchez was ever bailed out of was a deficit of five runs.


Ian Kennedy (Diamondbacks, 2010-current)

W-L

.pct

Dbacks record when allowing 4+ runs

9-16

.360

Dbacks record when allowing 5+ runs

.357

Dbacks record when pitching less than 5.0 innings

2-5

.286

The biggest hole that Kennedy put the Diamondbacks into that they managed to dig themselves out of was six runs.


Mat Latos (Padres, 2009-2011, Reds, current)

W-L

.pct

Pads/Reds record when allowing 4+ runs

6-18

.250

Pads/Reds record when allowing 5+ runs

.214

Pads/Reds record when pitching less than 5.0 innings

1-13

.070

Mat Latos is the only pitcher (non-Brave) in this exercise to have his team dig out of a deficit of seven runs once.


Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers, 2009-current)

W-L

.pct

Dodgers record when allowing 4+ runs

6-18

.250

Dodgers record when allowing 5+ runs

.200

Dodgers record when pitching less than 5.0 innings

3-11

.214

In the span of four years, the Dodgers' best efforts were getting themselves out of six-run deficits created by Clayton Kershaw.

Tim Hudson (Braves, 2010-current)

W-L

.pct

Braves record when allowing 4+ runs

4-17

.190

Braves record when allowing 5+ runs

.181

Braves record when pitching less than 5.0 innings

2-3

.400

Huddy once forfeited seven runs to the Rockies that the Braves still came back to win from.

Jair Jurrjens (Braves, 2009-current)

W-L

.pct

Braves record when allowing 4+ runs

6-20

.230

Braves record when allowing 5+ runs

.200

Braves record when pitching less than 5.0 innings

2-9

.181

Six is the most runs Jurrjens has ever forfeited and the Braves still won. Once.

**

So now that we have a small blend of other pitchers to compare to, let's take a look at Tommy Hanson's numbers:

W-L

.pct

Braves record when allowing 4+ runs

11-15

.423

Braves record when allowing 5+ runs

.347

Braves record when pitching less than 5.0 innings

4-7

.364

Twice, the Braves have dug themselves out of Tommy-created deficits of eight runs, three times come back from six runs, and six times, come back from four runs. In none of these 18 games did the Braves lose, and in none of these games, did Tommy Hanson get tagged with a loss.

Eleven times, Tommy was knocked out of a game before the fifth inning, but four of those times, the Braves prevailed, including both the Nats game and the Conrad Slam game.

Ultimately, you don't have to tell me that this proves nothing when it comes to Tommy Hanson's abilities or stats. The act of making any sort of comeback is completely dependent on the strength and resilience of a team's offense as a whole, and out of the control of the pitcher. But it is interesting to see that for some reason, Tommy Hanson has Lady Luck smiling down on him a little bit more than some of his peers and teammates. And it kind of goes to show that as long as Tommy Hanson starts the game, it doesn't matter if the game goes sour; for whatever reason, the Braves seem to be pretty good at bailing him out.

In conclusion, at a small glance, Tommy Hanson does in fact seem to get bailed out of poor performances better than some of his peers, and definitely his pitching mates. This is a positive thing to hear about the resiliency and explosiveness of the Braves' offensive capabilities, but it doesn't bode well for Tommy. Winning games hides poor performances, and the harsh reality is that Tommy Hanson is currently having the worst season in his career. Many have already noted the loss in velocity, and all across the board, his standard, advanced and rate stats are all at career worsts, and unfavorably compared to his career numbers.

The bottom line is that it's fascinating and interesting that Tommy Hanson starts are turning out to be winning games for the Braves so frequently or at least more than should be, but as many are aware, the smoke and mirrors act can only get a team so far. Perhaps Tommy should grow out his hair or something, anything to get him back to the potential dominator we still see glimpses of from time to time, but we can't expect the Braves offense to keep bailing him out like this forever.

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