In case you haven’t seen, the rumors have been proven true: Tommy Hanson is going to be a Ranger. Decidedly more surprising is that it’s a Major-League deal. In other words, he’s officially on the team, at least for now.
If you think he’ll be a game changer, than you are probably stuck in 2010. At this point in his career he is a 5th starter until he proves otherwise. His fastball has fallen almost 3 miles per hour since his peak (2010) but has stabilized somewhat, actually gaining .3 over 2012. It now averages below 90 mph. This, combined with not-outstanding control, has obviously caused some homerun issues. He currently is below average in that. Actually, his last two seasons have been below average in almost every regard.
He will probably not gain any velocity this year, and any real hope of him returning to his 2009-2010 heyday is probably a pipedream. But he does have one tool that no one will ever be able to take away from him-his curveball. It is ridiculous. This should at least provide some hope. But as Tyler Skaggs showed in Arizona (he is now with the Angels), even with a tremendous curveball, okay-ish fastball and fastball command is a recipe for home runs. It just is. (Interestingly, if you go to Fangraph’s pitch correlation tool, you see a weak negative correlation. My guess is because higher velocity guys often have relatively worse command, so they give up more home runs than their stuff would suggest. Regardless, look at the guys with the worst HR/9. The list is littered with low-velocity guys.)
Anyway, this makes Hanson a really odd fit for the Rangers. I mean, if he was on a minor-league deal this is a totally different story. After all, Hanson has had good seasons in the past and a great breaking ball, and ERA and HR/9 fluctuate a lot, so he could possibly rebound. But on a major-league deal, I don’t have the same view. It is possible that he could rebound, but his stuff degraded since his peak and is unlikely to bounce back. As a home run prone pitcher in a hitter’s park, I don’t love the deal. But again, ERA and HR/9 don’t correlate year-to-year much. xFIP is better in this regard. In xFIP, he has fallen from low-to mid 3′s at his peak to low-to mid 4′s now. He posted a 4.83 xFIP last year.
With all of these factors, I simply don’t like the deal for the Rangers. But for only 2 million dollars, it could be worse too.