If Braves don’t land a big arm, Hanson becomes the key man

Tommy Hanson on a hot Monday night. (AP photo)

Here's Tommy Hanson on a hot Monday night. (AP photo)

Asked for his Trade Deadline wish list, Chipper Jones said Monday: “I’d like Josh Johnson, [Ryan] Dempster and Cliff Lee. We could trade our entire Triple A team for those three.”

Jones was kidding, sort of, but he was reminded that in 1993 the Braves’ Class AAA affiliate fully expected to be ravaged at the deadline. Jones was then Richmond’s shortstop; Ryan Klesko was the first baseman, Javy Lopez the catcher. With the Braves gazing upward at the Giants in the National West, it was thought that general manager John Schuerholz would have to part with one, maybe two, of the prized prospects to land Fred McGriff. Instead Schuerholz hooked McGriff for Melvin Nieves, a Richmond outfielder, and two lesser lights.

In the history of deadline deals, that’s about the best. McGriff showed up, the press box at the old stadium caught fire and the Braves overhauled San Francisco, which would win 103 games but, there being no wild card then, go nowhere.

Today there are two wild cards per league, and the Braves’ needs are different. They haven’t pitched very well, and starting pitching tends to assume greater importance — not that it’s ever insignificant — in September and October. They thought they’d traded for the aforementioned Dempster last week, but he didn’t sanction the transaction. The jilted suitor (Braves GM Frank Wren) claims to have backed away, though it’s unclear if the deal is dead or dormant.

For more than a month, we’ve worked under the assumption that Wren would move heaven and earth to land a starting pitcher. With Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline close at hand, we ask instead: What if Wren’s wrangling doesn’t yield a Dempster or a Johnson or a Lee? Would the 2012 Braves be capable of winning in October? (The belief here is, and has been for a while, that they’re good enough to get there.)

As it stands, the Braves’ rotation in a Division Series — and don’t forget, the two wild cards first meet in a play-in game — would surely include Tim Hudson, who’s 37 and who has won one postseason game; Ben Sheets, who’s 34 and who has never worked a postseason game, and Tommy Hanson. The Tommy Hanson of the first half of 2011 met the definition of a top-shelf starter: He was 10-4 with an ERA of 2.44 before the All-Star Game, for which he should have been selected. He hasn’t been nearly so good since.

His shoulder started hurting, and his last appearance of 2011 came Aug. 6. The shoulder didn’t require surgery, but the Hanson of ‘12 hasn’t thrown as hard or as precisely. He entered Monday night’s start against Miami having compiled seasonal career worsts in ERA (4.39) and WHIP (walks and hits per inning).

True, he has won 12 games, but only nine of his 23 outings have been Quality Starts (at least six innings with no more than three earned runs). And his past three starts had been either lousy (six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Mets, eight in four against the Nationals) or weird (seven walks in five innings against the Marlins in Miami). Weirder still: The Braves lost none of those three games.

Monday’s effort was more polished: Five innings, six hits, three walks, one earned run. It must be said, however, that injuries and trades have reduced the Marlins to something approximating a Class AAA club, and while Hanson was good he wasn’t overpowering. And he was gone after only 85 pitches, albeit on a hot night, albeit with his team leading 4-1. (Soon to be 6-1: Juan Francisco, who pinch-hit for him, drove home two more.)

And yet: Hanson’s final pitch was driven to left field by Carlos Lee for the single that should have yielded the tying run, but Martin Prado somehow threw out Jose Reyes, who was running hard all the way, at the plate. Of the 15 outs the Marlins made against Hanson, two were on the bases.

A year ago, you could have written Hanson’s name on a postseason lineup card — that’s if the Braves had made it and he’d have stayed healthy, neither of which happened — and felt good about his chances. This season’s Hanson has only occasionally resembled the poised and skilled prospect who arrived in the majors to much ballyhoo in June 2009. He doesn’t look like a No. 1 starter, and on his bad nights he’s barely a No. 4.

If the trade deadline passes without the acquisition of a No. 1 starter, Hanson becomes the key man in this rotation. If he pitches to the form of previous seasons, this rotation would stand a fighting chance come the playoffs. If not, there’ll be no parade down Peachtree.

By Mark Bradley

38 comments Add your comment

Bill

July 30th, 2012
9:17 pm

The Grinch

July 30th, 2012
9:22 pm

I’ve never really been confident with Hanson on the mound. Mainly because HE never really seems confident when he’s on the mound.

Aaron

July 30th, 2012
9:23 pm

Unless we get a deal that doesn’t require sending Delgaldo, Vizcaino, or Tehran, I say we stand pat at the deadline.

Mark Bradley

July 30th, 2012
9:26 pm

Kudos, Bill.

Mark P

July 30th, 2012
9:32 pm

Ther is no reason to believe that Tommy Hanson will suddenly get better in August. Only Roger Clemens got stronger as the season wore on, and we all know why. The Braves have coveted Jon Lester(with good reason) for several years, and it would take alot to get him. I don’t believe that this starting staff can win in October, but Ryan Dempster could still be had in the nest 18 hours or so. He would be a difference maker. Something is wrong with Hanson, and let’s all hope that we don’t find out what in the next 2 months. That would be a disaster.

Dawgdad (The Original)

July 30th, 2012
9:36 pm

I say it will not be long before Medlen passes Hanson for the number 3 spot. Will Fredi then pitch Medlen third in playoffs if they survive the one game shootout. Probably not. Fredi is not real astute, as many have noticed. He will trot out Hanson, because he has always trotted out Hanson as number 3.

Hanson’s funky delivery makes him susceptible to not only injury, but multiple base stealing. If some manager just makes up his mind and turns his guys loose, he may give up 10-12 steals one game. That would be embarrassing in a playoff game.

JC Boscan III

July 30th, 2012
9:41 pm

Tonight’s performance was concerning to me. Hanson had a high pitch count AGAIN, but this was against a lineup with 5 players batting under .210 — under .210….!! He got out of trouble that he should never have gotten into, with the lineup that he was facing. That’s 2 games in a row against the Marlins where he dodged a lot of bullets. He’s becoming the 5-6 inning pitcher that Minor and Delgado were………

moboman

July 30th, 2012
9:45 pm

I see no change in Hanson’s delivery. Still all arm, no lower body momentum. What happened to the new delivery?

The Grinch

July 30th, 2012
9:47 pm

Agreed, Dawgdad. I’d start Medlen over Hanson right now.

DaveinNEPA

July 30th, 2012
9:53 pm

Although the Braves and Hanson claim that his shoulder isn’t bothering him, I’m not so sure.

How, in the course of one season, does a young pitcher go from a power pitcher to a junkballer? IMO there is something deeper than that and either he’s concealing shoulder pain or the team is concealing it from the media and the fans.

OTP

July 30th, 2012
10:06 pm

Perhaps we could get something for Hanson. His days are surely numbered, with that horrible delivery. I cannot watch him pitch. It makes me hurt to see it.

Old Dog

July 30th, 2012
10:18 pm

Hanson is a has been or a never was. He couldn’t break an egg with his fast ball. . .he doesn’t have one. No consistent location. Can’t hold runners on. However, one thing he does have is luck There is no way he could have won twelve games without being lucky.

Spartacus

July 30th, 2012
10:34 pm

Funny how TWO of Bor-Ass (Scott Boras) prized soon to be prized free agents are crashing and burning. JJ is done…stick a fork in him. Hansen has not lived up to his hype and has evolved into a back of the rotation starting pitcher. Poor Bor-Ass….

JFS

July 30th, 2012
10:41 pm

Barring a trade, Mike Minor looks like he should be the #3

Jfreak13713

July 30th, 2012
10:48 pm

Braves are a solid team but can’t really measure up to the other playoff teams if they can’t pitch but everybody already knows that. Even them! Without a number 1 starter then a trade would only delay the sour ending. I don’t see the Braves getting Cliff Lee because why would the Phillies trade him here? Josh Johnson has not been very good this year and Dempster is NOT a number 1 starter. If not Cliff Lee I’d say hold one to what you got for one more year and see if the kids can get a little better?

Obxdawg

July 30th, 2012
10:52 pm

Not too late to trade him. How ’bout Hanson and Delgado for Felix Hernandez? Anyone?

Hillbilly D

July 30th, 2012
10:59 pm

The Cubs broadcasters say that Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm have been traded to the Braves, according to “reliable sources”. No word on who’s going the other way.

Herndawg

July 30th, 2012
11:08 pm

According to Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com, the Cubs are trading left-hander Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson to the Braves.
It’s not clear who the Cubs will get in return. Maholm isn’t quite Ryan Dempster, but he should fit nicely in the back of the Braves’ rotation. The 30-year-old southpaw has a solid 3.74 ERA and 81/34 K/BB ratio over 120 1/3 innings this season. Johnson, 35, is batting .302/.355/.444 with three home runs and 16 RBI in 76 games played this season. He’s capable of playing all three outfield positions and will offer a right-handed bat off the bench.

LostCause

July 30th, 2012
11:12 pm

Hanson is the one needing to be traded

Hillbilly D

July 30th, 2012
11:15 pm

Herndawg

Johnson is also hitting over .400 as a pinch hitter, this year. He can’t play everyday due to back issues but he’s a gamer and plays hard.

Left Coast Dawg

July 30th, 2012
11:16 pm

Yes, it appears the Braves have traded for Malholm and Johnson.

ragnar danneskjold

July 30th, 2012
11:17 pm

Bet the Cubs are getting Costanza and Delgado.

ragnar danneskjold

July 30th, 2012
11:18 pm

Apologies for misspelling Constanza

Hillbilly D

July 30th, 2012
11:20 pm

ragnar

Where did you hear Constanza and Delgado?

luvthosedawgs68

July 30th, 2012
11:24 pm

Intrigued at who will be heading to the Cubs, but I’ve been interested with Reed Johnson since he joined the Cubs. Maholm will give a lot of depth to either the rotation or the bullpen. Love the trade!

braveslover

July 30th, 2012
11:28 pm

If there’s no trade I believe Medlin is the key man. I predict that Med will progress to enough pitches and innings to take the third spot in the rotation when we make the playoffs. Hanson will only be used for mop up duty either by being well ahead or well behind in the score.

Don Green

July 30th, 2012
11:40 pm

None of the Braves top pitching prospects are part of the deal. Not Minor, Medlen, Delgado, Teheren, Gilmartin, etc.

Don Green

July 30th, 2012
11:43 pm

A. Vizcaino and J. Chapman go to the Cubs.

Keith

July 30th, 2012
11:51 pm

Since we picked up Maholm, do we assume Medlen will have a 1-time start and then back to bullpen?

I feel bad that he’s been tossed around a little this year – he’s getting stretched out, back to pen…wait, he’s starting tomorrow….wait.

Josh Smith for 3

July 31st, 2012
12:10 am

Obviously not a trade worth any hooplah and celebration, but both are worthwhile additions to the roster. Both are having better-than-average years and having a couple of lefties in the starting rotation is always a good thing.

Herndawg

July 31st, 2012
12:15 am

“Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Braves are sending prospect right-hander Arodys Vizcaino to the Cubs in the deal for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson.
“An interesting get for Theo Epstein and company. Vizcaino was highly thought of in prospect circles prior to undergoing Tommy John surgery in March. He doesn’t turn 22 until November, so there’s still plenty of time for him to become a useful long-term piece.”

[...] For sure, the Braves are better positioned today than they were at 7 p.m. Monday. Their rotation is deeper and better, and their bench is longer. They got an outfielder Wren called “the No. 1 [utility] guy on our board” and a starter who should push Kris Medlen back to the bullpen and perhaps ease the underwhelming Hanson out of any October starts. [...]

John

July 31st, 2012
2:57 am

I’m so glad someone finally realized just how bad Hanson has become. He’s pitching like a 39 year old Maddux, if that. 5 innings, maybe 5 2/3 but by then the opponent has figured him out.
There is just no way I would start him any longer now that Maholm is here. Get someone to replace Medlen and dump Hanson. Maybe trade him as long as he’s still worth SOMETHING.

VinnyD

July 31st, 2012
9:14 am

If playoffs started tomorrow, I would go Sheets, MINOR, Hudson as my rotation. Minor has been lights out recently despite the fact that I thought his ceiling was low and he was a mediocre pitcher. He must have heard me. Are we going to actually try to pitch JJ out of the pen to see if he can do it? If he can’t, we need to go get a reliever to take his roster spot.

ground_fog

July 31st, 2012
11:10 am

Hanson could easily be traded imo. The Braves have fallen out of love with him. He is average at best and teams steal on him with ease

Jake

July 31st, 2012
1:23 pm

Why not trade hanson for a high end starting pitcher like josh Johnson or cliff lee.

Braves fan

July 31st, 2012
1:52 pm

Hanson should get in shape,lose 25 pounds.

Braves fan

July 31st, 2012
1:53 pm

Hanson needs to get in shape! Wouldn’t hurt to lose 20-25 pounds.