Tommy Hanson
             In a classic, one-for-one, baseball trade, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim sent reliever Jordan Walden to the Atlanta Braves for starting pitcher Tommy Hanson. Hanson is owed a projected $4 million in arbitration and is under team control through 2015 while Walden makes the major league minimum and is under team control through 2016.

            The explanation behind the title deals with the  numerous afflictions that have ailed both pitchers in the past couple years. Hanson, a 22nd round draftee of the Braves in 2006, has had extensive history with shoulder and back problems. Last year, Hanson had two separate DL stints dealing with rotator cuff strain and shoulder tendinitis. This year, he dealt with a car-crash induced  concussion and another DL stint with back strain. However, his persistent injury history is not even the biggest concern regarding Hanson's future big league success. His fastball velocity has correlated with his previous shoulder pain and has seen precipitous drops since his 2010 sophomore campaign. Since 2010, his average fastball velocity has dropped from 92.7 to 91.2 (2011) to 89.7 this past season. Not surprisingly, his performance has coincided with his shoulder issues and velocity decrease. From 2010, his ERA has increased 1.15 runs (3.33 to 4.48), his ERA+ has decreased 28 points (117 to 89), and his walks per nine innings has increased by 1.2 (2.5 to 3.7). By most means, he went from an above average starter to a mediocre below average one in a matter of two years.

            Obviously, these are not favorable trends  for any pitcher, let alone one with serious durability concerns. I am by no means an expert on pitching mechanics, but Hanson's delivery and short arm throwing motion (see below) seem awkward at best and could certainly be the basis for his shoulder ailments. Now, Hanson heads back to his hometown Angels, a team in desperate need for starting pitching after dealing Ervin Santana and letting Zack Greinke and Dan Haren walk as free agents. If… a big if… Hanson is healthy, he could be a more than serviceable starter and fill in solidly as a mid rotation guy.

            Like Tommy Hanson, Jordan Walden has seen his performance suffer due to injury and velocity attrition. One year after saving 32 games in his rookie season, Walden entered the season as the team's closer. Yet, early season struggles (8.31 ERA in first month) quickly saw he demoted of the role in favor of Ernesto Frieri, only to then miss 35 games with an arm strain. Although Walden struck out an impressive 11.08 batters per nine innings and solid peripherals (3.02 FIP), the two ticks of fastball velocity lost since 2010 is quite concerning. Once again unsurprisingly, Walden saw his numbers drop as he finished the year with a 3.46 ERA in 39 innings, while producing a slightly above average ERA+ of 110. One positive that differentiates 
Walden from Hanson is the type of injury suffered. Shoulder issues tend to have high re-injury rates and more damning long term consequences, even more so for a starting pitcher. Walden's less serious bicep strain and injury risk in general should be mitigated by pitching in relief for shorter durations and in fewer total injuries.

First Impressions:

Winner: Braves; Atlanta dumped a wrecked pitcher who's peripherals are all trending in the wrong direction for a decent middle reliever. Even if Walden happens to flame out, the chances of Hanson doing so are just as high and this trade could very well end up as a wash. In this case, the team that dumped the most money (Atlanta) would be the winners of this forgettable trade.

Loser: Angels; The Angels acquired the starter they desperately needed, but one I am very hesitant  to pencil in for more than 10 or so starts. His injury, velocity, and command decline do not portend for future success. Although Walden will not be missed much in Anaheim, the Angels probably could have done better than Hanson.

-Aidan Flynn


12/01/2012 6:31am

The Angels should have traded Walden after the 2011 season.
By keeping him around in 2012.....they ended up getting less for him. Walden is a one-trick pony. A blazing fastball (that more often than not is right down the middle--no movement at all)....and nothing else. He has no real command of any other pitch.
Also, Walden is something of a head case. He's always way too amped up with each appearance he makes. He needs to take Ritalin. And if he's already on the stuff, then he needs to get his daily dosage increased....for the Braves sake! Good luck, Atlanta!

12/01/2012 9:44am

Joe, I agree if they moved Walden a year early, they could have received a more promising haul. Neither side really got a good return, but I have more confidence in Walden being decent than Hanson staying healthy. If Hanson were to regain any fastball velocity (which should in turn improve his production), then this trade would lean heavily in the Angel's favor. I just do not see it happening with him. Also, I cannot comment on Walden's mental state, but I feel like it would be easier to fix than recurring shoulder issues. I appreciate your comment, Joe.


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