Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Li'l Tommy, Yankee Killer


Well, the day of reckoning is upon us. The man whose name we've heard in 3,241 trade rumors, 62 Baseball America articles, 973 blogs and 100 ESPN reports has burst onto the big stage in a very big way.

After 4 starts, Hanson is 3-0 with a 3.13 ERA, and lately, he's been even better than that, if that's possible. In his last 2 starts, Hanson has gone 11.1 scoreless innings, roughly cutting his ERA in half. The Braves as a team are 4-0 in games Hanson has started, though, admittedly, it took a few runs to win the first one. Run support or not, there is a certain confidence among the players when Tommy takes the mound. He's the next big thing, and when he's on the hill, his players not only want to win for him, but feel confident they can.

And suddenly, there's a similar confidence among some of the starters. The Braves have posted back-to-back shutouts (the other was courtesy of Javier Vasquez), and look like a decent team at home. They're still less than capable on the road, but with the Mets badly injured, and the Rockies and Giants looking like wild card contenders, if the Braves can turn things around soon, they'll still have 3 good months to make a push. I suppose we're getting a little ahead of ourselves here.

However you slice it, Hanson has been a very positive change for the Braves. His control hasn't been overwhelming, with 15 walks in 23 innings (and just 16 strikeouts), so that WHIP is climbing a bit, but his stuff is so devastating that he seems to be able to get away with putting guys on base for free. It is a little scary that a misplaced slider could lead to 3 runs instead of just 1, but as long as he's making pitches with guys on base, it's tough to complain much.

If he's still available in your League, I'm giving him my seal of approval. If you're in a keeper league, he's almost definitely gone. A smaller traditional league might still give you the chance to grab him. Either way, if you get a chance to watch one of his starts, I highly recommend it -- you're checking out one of the next high profile arms when he's still trying to figure out how to play with the big kids.

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