Angels get Tommy Hanson from Braves for Jordan Walden

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Tommy Hanson once looked likely to be atop Atlanta’s rotation for a long time, but after the right-hander struggled for the past season-and-a-half the Braves have traded him to the Angels.

Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com reports that the Braves will get 25-year-old reliever Jordan Walden in return, which makes it a swap of two young pitchers whose stock has declined dramatically in the last year.

Through his first three seasons Hanson tossed 460 innings with a 3.28 ERA, but this year his ERA rose to 4.48 and his average fastball velocity fell from 92 miles per hour to 89.7 mph. Hanson has struggled with back and shoulder problems since the middle of last season, but even with the declining velocity he managed 161 strikeouts in 175 innings.

Walden went from saving 32 games as a rookie closer in 2011 to quickly losing the job and being relegated mostly to low-leverage outings this year, although he still finished with a nice 3.46 ERA and 48/18 K/BB ratio in 39 innings.

After signing Ryan Madson the Angels clearly felt Walden was expandable and they certainly need plenty of rotation help after trading Ervin Santana and potentially losing both Dan Haren and Zack Greinke to free agency. A healthy Hanson is a 26-year-old top-of-the-rotation starter under team control through 2015 and that would have huge value, but he comes with some big question marks attached and in the meantime the Braves’ scary good bullpen gets even scarier with Walden and his-90s heat.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.