Rounding the Bases (Tommy Hanson Edition)

Don’t pay attention to the line. Still the next big thing.

Because today should have been Tom Glavine’s first start, I figured I would do a post on his replacement, the young, exciting Tommy Hanson.

Don’t look at the line. Okay, here it is:

6 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, and 5 K (91 pitches, 61 strikes)

To me, this start is a lesson in not just looking at the stats. I watched the game, and this is what I saw.

In the top of the first, Hanson looked like a pro. One, two, three in 9 pitches. He hammered the strike zone, and was out of it. The second inning was even more dominating. Prince Fielder, Mike Cameron, and Mat Gamel all struck out, and they did it in 12 pitches. The third inning went much like the first 2. Three up, three down, and Hanson was done with the lineup in 31 pitches total.

Then came the fourth and the first score. Counsell got out quickly. Then, JJ Hardy bounced one up the middle, and racing in, Escobar booted it (it may have been a hit, but Escobar could have made that play; the point being that it wasn’t hit hard). Ryan Braun came up. Hanson, on the second pitch, made his first mistake of the night. After slamming the corners with all pitches (including breaking balls), he made a mistake — right down the middle. It started on the outside black and leaked over, and Braun did what he does best. Just a mistake. It happens. He’ll need to realize that on a 1-0 fastball, you miss outside the zone, not in. You don’t get away with as much here.

The fifth inning saw another score. Hanson retired the first two quickly before giving up a dink shot to Kendall for a single. Manny Parra, with his one hit this season, laced a 2-2 high fastball off the wall. We’ll tally that as a fluke.

What ensued caused me to get angry … with David Ross. Hardy walked to lead off the inning. Okay, that’s all on Hanson. You don’t walk guys to lead off innings after the team battles back to take the lead. Braun walks back up, and we remember what he did last time. First pitch, fastball on the black for strike one. Second pitch, Braun chases a slider away. Third pitch, high fastball deposited in the right field seats. Okay, Hanson needs to get that above the shoulders, but WHY IS ROSS CALLING A FASTBALL ON 0-2 AFTER HE JUST CHASED A BREAKING BALL?? It’s one thing if Hanson had been hanging breaking balls, but he wasn’t. He actually located them really well. Next came Fielder. On a 1-2 pitch, Ross calls for another fastball, and it’s laced into center. Again, Hanson needed to locate a bit better, but why are we throwing fastballs to good fastball (and power) hitters when the count is in the pitcher’s favor? Next was almost worse. Who here thinks Mike Cameron is a dead-red hitter? After getting a fastball fouled back, Ross calls for another fastball. Well, it was deposited over the outfield fence.

Now, I don’t want to completely blame Ross. Hanson CAN’T MAKE MISTAKES IN THE ZONE. It’s just a bad idea, especially against a good hitting team. But Ross wasn’t helping. When you have those guys in obvious pitcher’s counts and the pitcher hasn’t thrown that many (remember, he had 91 all together, and he got three more outs after Cameron), you need to throw breaking balls and probably out of the zone. See if they’ll chase, and at the very least, take away some of the power. The pitch-calling in this instance was atrocious.

Now, but what if Hanson wanted those pitches? I should have paid more attention to him shaking off pitches, but I didn’t. But even if he wanted to throw fastballs, Ross is the veteran with experience. HE should be calling the pitches. And if he did, he should be ashamed.

Okay, so am I just trying to find a glimmer of hope in the first game? Maybe. I won’t put myself above it. If there’s a fault in my logic, please point it out, and I’ll be happy to recant. But here’s my scouting report from the first game:

– Excellent stuff –> fastball with movement (not a whole lot, but at 94-95, does it matter?), curve and slider with excellent movement, change-up is nothing special, maybe below average.
– Fastball at 96 and 97 early, but he mainly sat at 94 (early adrenaline)
– Good command of breaking pitches and fastballs
– Threw lots of strikes and got ahead of hitters
– Didn’t seem rattled
– Made some mistakes. Happens, but troubling that he made them in the zone. Must make them out of zone and risk walks of big, power hitters.
– Early on, lots of first-pitch fastballs, but went with more first-pitch breaking balls second and third time through.
– Seemed to throw a lot of fastballs overall (maybe inordinate amount). Need FanGraphs to update so I know and can tell you.

Is this the best he has? Maybe. But I’m sure he’ll have worse “stuff” nights and end up with better lines. I’m really excited about him, and I think there’s lots to like. Got ahead. Pounded the strike zone and down. Good movement and location on three pitches. Just needs to learn to not make mistakes in the zone. AAA hitters can’t hit 96 mph fastballs. Pros can. Need focus on all pitches at all times. No grooving.

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