Friday, July 25, 2008

Tommy Hanson Thoughts and Comments

I've had a few requests from Braves fans to address my thoughts on Tommy Hanson. I know a lot of people have been impressed with him this year, but I don't think he's all that great. In fact, the Braves don't have a single pitcher in the minors that I think is going to have much of an impact over the next 3 to 5 years.

Anyways, here's Hanson and fellow comparables.

Not a bad list of comparables, but not great either. What really bothers me about Hanson and every other pitcher the Braves have in their farm system is the lack of solid ground ball rates. I don't know if the Braves pitching coaches don't teach their pitchers to induce ground balls, or if the pitchers just don't have the talent to do so. My gut tells me that the pitchers have plenty of talent, they just aren't being taught the importance of ground balls and how to make them happen.

To make my point, here's a brief excerpt from a recent interview Project Prospect conducted with Trevor Cahill:

AL: Simply put, you're a guy that balances out a lot of way to keep people off the bases. High strikeout rates, keeping the ball on the ground, low walk rate -- what's your approach when you take the mound?

TC: Usually it's about getting ground balls. Early contact and ground balls gets you later into games. I got a little obsessed with the strikeout when I was with [High-A] Stockton. I would start throwing to get them to swing and miss instead of getting them to roll over. That kind of prevented me from getting deep into games.

AL: So would you rather pitch deep into the game -- eighth inning, complete game -- or strike 15, 16 guys out?

TC: Well, right now with one inning [in the Futures Game], it's nice to strike out guys. But it helps the team out more if you go eight innings and give up no runs than it does if you go six innings, give up no runs, and get the strikeouts. Strikeouts don't matter for the win.

I always like to keep it in my back pocket. If a guy gets on third base with no outs and you need strike three, it's nice to be able to have it.

If the Braves minor league system was teaching their pitchers the importance and efficiency of ground balls, there would be a lot more guys like Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson in their system, and fewer Tommy Hansons. It would seem logical that a team that benefited so much from the efforts of Greg Maddux (career GB% around 60%) and Tom Glavine (50%) would try to instill their young pitchers with similar skills. However, at current, their best ground ball starting pitchers are averaging a GB% of 50% or less(compared to 60% or higher in the Oakland A's system), severely limiting their overall effectiveness. As long as the Braves fail to teach this important aspect of the game to their young pitchers, Braves fans are going to continue to see a revolving door of pitching prospects like Chuck James and Kyle Davies.
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Anonymous said...

What do you consider a "solid ground ball rate"?

Adam G said...

45% GB% is about average, so 50% would be above average, 55% solid, and 60%+ is excellent.

James Qu said...

I agree, they have plenty of talent. But I just can't imagine Braves not stressing that to their pitchers...

We'll see w/ Hanson though. There has been effective FB pitchers... They are just harder to watch though.

James Qu\ said...

Nice pic btw

Adam G said...

Thanks. My wife likes the pic...she likes the white coat.

Anonymous said...

What are your "thoughts and comments" on Cedric Hunter?