The Braves have enough rotation depth to weather just about any storm, but that doesn’t make Tommy Hanson’s recent failures any less disconcerting.
The 24-year-old ace was shelled for seven earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings Saturday in a loss to the Mets. He surrendered eight hits, issued two walks, and watched his ERA climb from 3.20 to 3.60.
And it’s possible that the slide will continue.
Hanson went 9-4 with a 2.60 ERA through the end of June, but he allowed 36 hits and 19 earned runs in 37 1/3 innings during the month of July and his August is off to an even rougher start.
The right-hander spent time on the disabled list earlier this year with shoulder tendinitis and hinted to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after Saturday’s game that he’s still being bothered by some discomfort.
“I’ve never made an excuse and I’m not going to,” said Hanson. “I felt good enough to go out there and help my team win the game. They did their part and I didn’t. I just didn’t have very good command. Actually, I had horrible command.”
The Braves hold a comfortable 3 1/2 game lead in the National League Wild Card standings, but the Diamondbacks are charging hard and the Giants could also be in the mix. Feeling “good enough” might not cut it any longer for Hanson. A couple weeks off would put him in far better shape for the September stretch run.
In 2016, Red Sox starter Rick Porcello narrowly and controversially eked ahead of then-Tigers starter Justin Verlander in Cy Young Award balloting, winning on points 137 to 132. Verlander was not included at all in the top-five of two ballots, both coincidentally belonging to writers from the Tampa Bay chapter, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain and Fred Goodall of the Associated Press. Verlander had more first-place votes than Porcello, but being left out of the top-five on two ballots was the difference maker.
In the aftermath, Verlander’s then-fiancée Kate Upton fired off some angry tweets, as did Justin’s brother Ben.
Verlander was again in the running for the 2018 AL Cy Young Award. He again finished in second place, this time behind Blake Snell of the Rays. Snell had 17 first-place votes and 169 total points to Verlander’s 13 and 154. There weren’t any ballots that made a big difference like in 2016, but there were two odd ballots from the Tampa Bay chapter again.
If a chapter doesn’t have enough eligible voters, a voter from another chapter is chosen to represent that city. This year, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News was a replacement voter along with Mark Didtler, a freelancer for the Associated Press. Both writers voted for Snell in first place, reasonably. But neither writer put Verlander second, less reasonably, putting Corey Kluber there instead. Madden actually had Verlander fourth behind Athletics reliever Blake Treinen. Didtler had Treinen in fifth place. Two other writers had Verlander in third place: George A. King III of the New York Post and Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. The other 26 had Verlander in first or second place.
Voting Kluber ahead of Verlander doesn’t make any sense, especially we finally live in a world where a pitcher’s win-loss record isn’t valued highly. Kluber had 20 wins to Verlander’s 16 and pitched one more inning. In every other area, Verlander was better. ERA? Verlander led 2.52 to 2.89. Strikeouts? Verlander led 290 to 222. Strikeout rate? Verlander led 34.8% to 26.4%. Opponent batting average? Verlander led .198 to .222. FIP and xFIP? Verlander led both 2.78 and 3.03 to 3.12 and 3.08, respectively. And while Treinen had an excellent year, Verlander pitched 134 more innings, which is significant.
Upton had another tweet for the occasion: