In the 2009-2010 season, Tommy Hanson looked to be the ace that Braves fans had desperately hoped he would be. With an 11-4 record and a miniscule 2.89 ERA, the flamethrowing young pitcher gave hope to the fan base that so desperately wanted another young stud in their rotation.

His sophomore season, as a result of the high standards that were created by his first year, has to be viewed as somewhat of a disappointment thus far. At least on the outside it must be.

Let’s dig a little bit deeper.

In this current season, Hanson’s strikeout rate is 9.14 per nine innings, the eighth best rate in the entire Major Leagues among qualified starters.

Conversely, his walk rate is a tiny 2.93 per nine innings.

Last year, Hanson’s strikeout rate was 8.18 per nine innings and his walk rate was 3.24. So he has improved a good deal in both of those ever-so-important categories.

This is a great sign for any young pitcher.

The third of the “three true results” is the home run. Hanson so far has stuck with the trend of improving each of these categories and has dropped his home run rate per nine innings from 0.70 to 0.67 this season.

As a result of these three statistics, Hanson’s FIP is down from last season’s mark of 3.50, quite a good number, to 3.34, an even more stellar one.

So the question remains: why is Hanson’s ERA so much worse this season than last?

Well, last season Hanson was the beneficiary of Lady Luck, and this season she has bitten him.

Now, for those of you who don’t understand BABIP and LOB%, please glance over my article titled “The Impending Tim Hudson Implosion: An Example of Luck in Baseball.”

In 2010, Hanson has been absolutely killed by the unluckiness of balls not finding the Atlanta Braves’ defenders’ gloves. This has led to a ridiculously high .349 BABIP, the third highest in the Major Leagues behind Francisco Liriano and Dan Haren. This number simply has to come down.

Additionally, Hanson’s LOB% has been 70.8 percent so far, and that number is below average. Not by too much, but still below average.

As these numbers normalize, so too will Hanson’s ERA and thus his perception around the fan communities.

Unfortunately, the media has made ERA the ultimate measure of a pitcher’s performance instead of a more accurate measure like FIP. As the season wears on and Hanson has better luck, his ERA will start to become more like his FIP.

ZIPS (a baseball stat predictor based on performance up to date in a season) projects Hanson to have a 3.08 ERA in the second half of the season and finish with a 3.72 ERA, which would still be quite a bit higher than his projected end of the season 3.16 FIP.

Hanson is an ace despite what the more mainstream stats show.

Soon everyone will begin to realize that as he pushes the Braves towards a playoff berth.


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