The Angels of a year ago went into the season with their rotation feted as the strength of the team. Yes, they went out and got Pujols, and no one knew Trout was going to explode the way he did. The rotation was what impressed everyone. Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana were considered a formidable top four and Jerome Williams was a cut above for a fifth starter. But the rotation did not work out as most expected.
Weaver was as good as ever, but Haren had health problems and was not as effective after the early part of the season. Wilson seemed rather ordinary for most of the season and Santana struggled early and often in the season. Jerome Williams could not stay healthy. And even Zack Greinke picked up late in the season could not help the team reach the playoffs in what has become a very tough division.
With Haren, Santana and Greinke all gone this off season, the Angels needed to rebuild a bit and Tommy Hanson ended up being their target. Knowing the Angels, they might not be done working to improve themselves, but Hanson was a pretty bold statement. After all, Hanson is only 25 years old and started his career with three straight seasons with a WHIP of under 1.2.
But Hanson adds another layer of question marks. He did not have the same sort of season for the Braves last season. His WHIP ballooned to 1.454 and for the first time in his career, he gave up more hits than innings pitched. He also gave up home runs at an alarming rate.
The Angels really did not give up much to get Hanson. Jordan Walden will cross the river to get baptized in someone else's pond. He joins an already deep bullpen for the Braves. But he had lost his closer role to Ernesto Frieri and it was apparent that the Angels did not trust him on the mound.
Knowing the little return the Braves allowed themselves to unload Hanson, you have to wonder about the pitcher the Angels are now counting on as the third guy in their rotation. The real big deal you notice right off the bat with Hanson is that he has lost three miles per hour on his fastball since 2010. The loss of velocity was shown across all of his pitches. Combine those facts with one strikeout per nine less in 2012 compared to 2011 and you see a few flags fly up.
From this perspective, the Angels have too many question marks in the rotation behind Weaver. Wilson just doesn't often seem that impressive and his numbers for the Angels were just a tick above ordinary. There are red flags with Hanson. Garrett Richards is pegged as number four and has not blown anyone away in either the high minors or in his two cups of coffee. Round out the thing with Jerome Williams and his hard sinker.
The good news is that the Angels have not given up much to get Hanson. But the not so good news is that Hanson is not someone to be overly excited about either. There are only three possibilities here. Either Hanson was not healthy and can get his velocity back. Or he is still not healthy. Or, finally, that at twenty-five, we've already seen the best of what Hanson has had to offer. The Angels are hoping that the first possibility is the one that they get.