Hanson has put himself in ROY race
Before this season started, many journalists wanted to know whether Tommy Hanson would be introduced to the Major League scene in time to warrant Rookie of the Year consideration.
Consumed by what Jordan Schafer had displayed over the previous six weeks, I primarily told them that Schafer’s contributions over a six-month period would likely trump those that Hanson would be able to provide during the regular season’s final four months.
But as the first month of Hanson’s big league career comes to a close, you can already argue that he’s running neck-and-neck with St. Louis’ Colby Rasmus at the front of the chase to be named the NL’s Rookie of the Year.
Five starts into his career, Hanson still hasn’t enjoyed that utterly dominant outing that he’s capable of providing on a regular basis. But while limiting the Red Sox to two hits and issuing just two walks in six innings on Sunday, we at least got a glimpse of how effective his stuff can be against one of the game’s top lineups.
If the Red Sox don’t possess the game’s top lineup, then that distinction would have to be given to that Yankees bunch that saw Hanson work his magic last week, while pitching around five walks and holding them scoreless over 5 1/3 innings.
After Sunday’s performance, a fan tweeted, “could Tommy Hanson be a candidate for Rookie of the Year if he keeps pitching this well?” My response was, “if the Braves turn things around, he’s the club’s MVP.”
Hanson has started five of the nine games the Braves have won since he joined the rotation. His four wins this month exceed the combined totals of Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami and Javier Vazquez, who have each totaled one more victory in June than the winless Jair Jurrjens.
While going 1-3 with a 1.98 ERA and limiting opponents to a .197 batting average and .554 OPS, Vazquez was undoubtedly Atlanta’s most impressive starter in June. But because the Braves scored just six runs during the 37 innings that he was on the mound this month, he also has to wear the unenviable tag of being “the most unlucky”.
During a four-start stretch that has seen him allow opponents a .356 on-base percentage and surrender just two runs, Hanson has obviously been somewhat lucky. But the game’s greatest pitchers will tell you that you can often create your own “luck” and the big right-hander has done so while limiting opponents to two hits in 19 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Hanson’s current streak of 20 consecutive scoreless innings dates backto the fourth inning of his June 12 start against the Orioles. Since allowing that final run at Camden Yards, he has allowed opponents to load the bases five times and then managed to escape unscathed.
With 17 walks and 18 strikeouts in his first 29 career innings, Hanson has provided every indication that he needs to improve. Of course, given the results that he’s gained while battling inconsistent control with his fastball, he’s also provided even more reason to wonder just how great he could prove to be.
During Spring Training, Guy Hansen, a long-time pitching coach in the Braves Minor League system, compared Hanson to Toronto’s Roy Halladay. Then Sunday, Chipper Jones echoed this comparison to the former AL Cy Young Award winner.
Going from the impressive to the least impressive, we now turn our attention toward Derek Lowe, who will attempt to end his three-game losing streak against during tonight’s series opener against the Phillies.
Lowe, who has posted a 12.34 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .433 against him in his past three starts, will be looking to begin anew in the same impressive fashion that he displayed while tossing eight scoreless innings against the Phillies on Opening Night. <p>
While winning just seven of their previous 21 games, the Phillies have hit .240 with a .399 slugging percentage. Still the 29 homers they’ve hit during this span is exactly half of what the Braves have totaled throughout this season.
From a pitching perspective,during this 21-game stretch, the Phillies have posted a 4.84 ERA and allowed 29 homers, which is just 20 fewer than the Braves have allowed through their first 75 games this season.
Thanks to the Phillies and Mets, the Braves have lost 20 of their last 32 games and still enter this week’s series just five games behind the front-running Phillies.
While the visits made by the Red Sox and Yankees created a great buzz around Turner Field last week, this week’s series will prove much more influential. The Phillies won each of the nine games they played in Atlanta last year and if they leave town celebrating another three-game sweep this week, the Braves will be staring at an eight-game deficit and their focus may have to toward the 2010 season.