That was a good rookie year. A little too good? Hanson went 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA, struck out 8.2 men per nine, and improved as the year went on, so that in his last eleven starts (August and September) he was 6-2 with a 2.56 ERA and struck out better than ten men per nine. There just aren’t any red flags here, except the usual that he’s a young pitcher and young pitchers are unpredictable, and sometimes get hurt. His control was pretty good to begin with and again, got better. He didn’t give up many homers. The Braves didn’t ask him to work too hard — his innings were up, but his pitch counts never got above 112 and most were below 100. All evidence suggests that this is an excellent young pitcher, a potential ace starter unless you’re a spoiled Braves fan or Baseball Prospectus and your standards are so high that there are only ten or twelve #1 starters in baseball — and maybe even then.
It’s just that I get a bit nervous about young pitchers who come up and are really good. A lot of the time, that’s because they trick major leaguers and the league eventually catches up to them. But there’s no reason to think that Hanson is that kind of pitcher. He’s got a really good fastball and a great curveball and a changeup that’s better than many, and he throws them all for strikes. I would expect that in 2010 he’ll have a few struggles mixed in with some great starts, and that starting in 2011 he’ll settle in as one of the best starters in baseball. Just stay healthy, kid.