Author: Matthew Pouliot

Tommy Hanson

Remembering Tommy Hanson’s talent


I know next to nothing of the person Tommy Hanson was, though I’ve never heard anything bad. I can only write about the pitcher who immediately became one of my favorites after bursting onto the scene in 2009.

That pitcher was pretty awesome from day one. Well, day 11 anyway. He didn’t allow a single run in his third, fourth and fifth big-league starts. He opened his career 9-2, with the Braves getting shut out in both of his losses.

Hanson wasn’t always brilliant in those days, but he was a constant threat to bring no-hit stuff to the mound with him. When he had both his slider and his curve working, there was nothing anyone could do against him other than to try to wait him out. It had to have been a helpless feeling for right-handed hitters in particular. Hanson almost looked like he was cracking a whip in his delivery, and he truly did snap off those breaking balls.

Hanson finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting despite his late callup in 2009. The next year, he made 34 starts with a 3.33 ERA.

It was in 2011 that Hanson broke through as an elite pitcher. On June 12, he struck out 14 Astros to improve to 8-4 with a 2.48 ERA. Five days later, he was placed on the DL with shoulder tendinitis. Unfortunately, the Braves let him return to the mound just 11 days afterwards. He was effective for another five weeks (and somehow passed over for the All-Star Game despite being 10-4 with a 2.44 ERA), but then the shoulder shut him down again. Never again would we see peak Tommy Hanson.

Hanson came back and made 31 starts in 2012, but he never had his former velocity. It was impressive enough that he went 13-10 with a 4.48 ERA anyway. Everyone knew he was damaged goods, yet the Angels traded for him the following winter. He made 13 more big-league starts in 2013, posting a 5.42 ERA.

Even though his stuff wasn’t coming back, Hanson never gave up on pitching. He made 10 starts for the White Sox’s Triple-A affiliate in 2014. In 2015, he pitched in the Giants system, amassing a 4.76 ERA in 15 starts.

Hanson was just 29 when he died Monday. What led to his catastrophic organ failure is unclear at this point. Knowing the cause won’t make it any less sad.

It’d be wrong to say Hanson failed to fulfill his potential as a big-league pitcher. He did. His time just didn’t last nearly long enough, neither in MLB nor on Earth.

Josh Donaldson, Lorenzo Cain not among Gold Glove finalists

Lorenzo Cain

Rawlings unveiled this year’s Gold Glove finalists on Wednesday, and there were some surprising omissions, especially in the American League. Let’s start there. 2014 winners are asterisked.

American League

Mark Buehrle – Toronto
Sonny Gray – Oakland
Dallas Keuchel – Houston*

Jason Castro – Houston
Russell Martin – Toronto
Salvador Perez – Kansas City*

First Base
Eric Hosmer – Kansas City*
Mike Napoli – Texas
Mark Teixeira – New York

Second Base
Jose Altuve – Houston
Brian Dozier – Minnesota
Ian Kinsler – Detroit

Third Base
Adrian Beltre – Texas
Evan Longoria – Tampa Bay
Manny Machado – Baltimore

Xander Bogaerts – Boston
Alcides Escobar – Kansas City
Didi Gregorius – New York

Left Field
Yoenis Cespedes – Detroit
Brett Gardner – New York
Alex Gordon – Kansas City*

Center Field
Kevin Kiermaier – Tampa Bay
Kevin Pillar – Toronto
Mike Trout – Los Angeles

Right Field
Kole Calhoun – Los Angeles
J.D. Martinez – Detroit
Josh Reddick – Oakland

Not making the cut were Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy, both of whom had won three straight Gold Gloves. Dustin Pedroia also missed out after winning back-to-back years, though that’s because he was limited to 93 games this year.

Still, the most notable omission here would seem to be Lorenzo Cain, who gained so much attention for his defense in the 2014 postseason and seemed well positioned after putting in a full season in center this year (he spent considerable time in right field in 2014). The voters got it right by including Kiermaier and Pillar among the finalists despite their middling bats. It’s Trout’s spot that really should have gone to Cain. That said, even though Cain deserved a place in the top three, Kiermaier seems like the best choice for the actual award.

Josh Donaldson‘s omission at third is also odd, particularly in light of his huge offensive numbers (like it or not, offense is usually a key component in getting noticed for Gold Gloves). The metrics say Donaldson ranks among the league’s top third basemen, too, and that he should have gotten Longoria’s spot. Donaldson, though, has always been more error-prone than most, and some are holding it against him.

Also unfortunately absent is Indians rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor, who was the AL’s best defensive shortstop from the moment he was called up this year. Unfortunately, that callup came a few days too late, and he was ineligible for the award because he didn’t play in enough games prior to the beginning September. That’s the case even though he ended up finishing the season with more innings at shortstop (865 1/3) than left field finalist Alex Gordon did in the outfield (864 2/3).

National League

Jake Arrieta – Chicago
Gerrit Cole – Pittsburgh
Zack Greinke – Los Angeles*

Yadier Molina – St Louis*
Buster Posey – San Francisco
Wilson Ramos – Washington

First Base
Brandon Belt – San Francisco
Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona
Adrian Gonzalez – Los Angeles*

Second Base
Dee Gordon – Miami
DJ LeMahieu – Colorado*
Brandon Phillips – Cincinnati

Third Base
Nolan Arenado – Colorado*
Matt Duffy – San Francisco
Todd Frazier – Cincinnati

Brandon Crawford – San Francisco
Adeiny Hechavarria – Miami
Andrelton Simmons – Atlanta*

Left Field
Starling Marte – Pittsburgh
Justin Upton – San Diego
Christian Yelich – Miami*

Center Field
Billy Hamilton – Cincinnati
Andrew McCutchen – Pittsburgh
A.J. Pollock – Arizona

Right Field
Curtis Granderson – New York
Bryce Harper – Washington
Jason Heyward – St. Louis*

The NL was much lighter on controversial picks, and one can expect a bunch of repeat winners here. The only certain exception is in center field, where Juan Lagares wasn’t a finalist after being limited by injuries this year. Hamilton or Pollock should get the nod there. I imagine we’ll also see a change from Yelich to Marte in left field and possibly from Gonzalez to Goldschmidt (the 2013 winner) at first base.

The award winners are set to be announced on Nov. 10.

Clayton Kershaw can win in the postseason! Who knew?

Clayton Kershaw

Sometime after their Game 2 loss to the Rangers last week, the Blue Jays decided they trusted Marcus Stroman more than Cy Young candidate David Price in a potential Game 5 start. Such is the power of a postseason slump.

It can lead to one of the best hitters in the world being dropped to the eighth spot in the lineup. It can lead to quality regulars sitting at highly irregular times. In the postseason, what you did yesterday matters 10 times as much as what you did last month, usually not for the better.

Fortunately, Clayton Kershaw never had to worry about being skipped because of his postseason struggles. Even calling them struggles overstate the reality. In his previous three postseason starts, Kershaw had:

  • Allowed two runs over six innings in Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS against the Cardinals before being left in to give up a whopping six runs in the seventh
  • Pitched six scoreless innings on three days’ rest in Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS before giving up a three-run homer in the seventh
  • Allowed one run over 6 2/3 innings in Game 1 against the Mets before his two inherited runners came around to score off the pen
So, yes, Kershaw entered Tuesday’s outing against the Mets with a 4.99 postseason ERA, but he had turned in six quality starts in nine tries, allowing one earned run or fewer three times. It wasn’t nearly regular-season Kershaw, but it also wasn’t as bad as the ERA suggests, not when he’d been the victim of slow hooks and lousy bullpen support.

And, really, Tuesday’s win over the Mets didn’t seem much different at all than Kershaw previous couple of postseason starts, at least through six innings. Maybe the fastball was amped a bit. The real difference this time was that he made it through the seventh. Best of all, since he was on three days’ rest, Don Mattingly wasn’t tempted to send him back out for the eighth at 94 pitches, as he probably would have done had Kershaw been on normal rest. The bullpen took over and turned in two hitless innings in the 3-1 win, sending the NLDS back to Los Angeles for a decisive Game 5 on Thursday.

It’s completely unnecessary redemption for Kershaw, who had nothing in need of redeeming. But it’ll keep the trolls quiet for now and also all winter if Kershaw doesn’t get the chance to pitch again. He’d surely prefer to risk the chance of failure again next week in the NLCS.

Cardinals miss Martinez even more than Molina

Carlos Martinez

After taking Game 1 of the NLDS in an outstanding performance from John Lackey, the Cardinals dropped three straight to the Cubs by scores of 6-3, 8-6 and 6-4. It’s not difficult at all to imagine a healthy Carlos Martinez swinging one of those games.

Martinez wasn’t the Cardinals’ best starter this year, but he was the one who could shut a team down by himself, with little help from the defense needed. Martinez struck out 184 batters in 179 2/3 innings while going 14-7 with a 3.01 ERA. He left his next-to-last regular season start with a shoulder strain that was going to cost him the entirety of the postseason no matter how far the Cardinals advanced. It was a killer blow for a team whose offense had already been slowed by injuries.

October just came at the wrong time for the Cardinals, what with Martinez down, Yadier Molina nursing a significant thumb injury, Matt Holliday and Randal Grichuk far from 100 percent and Adam Wainwright still weeks short of potentially pulling off a Marcus Stroman-like return to the rotation.

It’s Molina absence Thursday and lack of effectiveness otherwise that serve as a popular explanation/excuse for the Cardinals’ loss. And the downgrade from him to Tony Cruz behind the plate was huge, even if Molina is no longer the hitter he was a couple of years back.

Martinez, though, had the potential to even up the NLDS just by doing what he did in the regular season. And had Martinez been in the rotation, the Cardinals wouldn’t have moved up Lackey to start Game 4 on three days’ rest. They’d have been the clear favorites in a Game 5 Jon Lester-Lackey rematch back in St. Louis, though we’ll never know how that might have worked out.

Jake Arrieta beatable, but still unbeaten

Jake Arrieta

Jake Arrieta gave up as many earned runs Monday against the Cardinals as he had in his previous 13 starts combined, yet the Cubs still won 8-6.

It’s the 15th straight time the Cubs have won a game started by Arrieta, who is set to finish first or second in the Cy Young balloting announced next month. Their last loss in an Arrieta-pitched game was when the Phillies’ Cole Hamels no-hit them on July 25. They won the previous four before that, too, so make it 19 of 20.

The outing could go down as Arrieta’s last of the season, though that would require the Cardinals beating the Cubs in back-to-back games to finish the NLDS. The more likely scenario at this point is that Arrieta starts Game 1 of the NLCS against the Dodgers or Mets.

Arrieta, though, was vulnerable in this one, turning in his shortest start since June. Even in the shutout of Pittsburgh in the wild card game, the Pirates had chances in the middle innings (most notably before Starling Marte‘s well-hit grounder with the bases loaded turned into a double play in the sixth).

Tonight, he walked two in a row at one point, after not walking a single batter in his previous three starts. He gave up his first homer in six starts. The wind was a factor in tonight’s eight-homer barrage, but Jason Heyward‘s two-run shot off Arrieta went against the grain in left-center.

So, if nothing else, the illusion of impenetrability is now gone. Arrieta can be gotten to, if primarily in short bursts. That’s not going to do anything for the Cardinals — at least not unless Arrieta is called on to pitch an inning or two in Game 5 — but it’ll probably come into play later in the postseason.