Rangers sign Tommy Hanson: a lesson in low expectations

Rangers sign Tommy Hanson: a lesson in low expectations

Credit: Getty Images

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 07: Tommy Hanson #48 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitches against the Texas Rangers in the third inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 7, 2013 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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by JOSEPH URSERY

WFAA Sports

Posted on February 10, 2014 at 7:02 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 11 at 12:42 PM

I'm prone to reaching too far into the philosophical side of things. It's a really great trait for someone who's supposed to write analytically-based articles. This, combined with a pretty fair predilection towards sports, leads to to compartmentalize things in strange ways that only make sense to me.  I've spent way too much time in this life explaining why the Thumbnail principle applied to Taylor Teagarden (he looked great when you couldn't see much of him- like a thumbnail!- but not so great once you saw him at full resolution) or why Lost and Tony Romo go hand-and-hand to me (look, just because it's not going to end as great as the early parts held promise for doesn't mean that it's not good stuff).

 
In that sense, Tommy Hanson is the latest incarnation of the Gin Blossoms Principle. The Gin Blossoms Principle doesn't relate to having to play in the rain because the Mayor of Dallas doesn't want to lose his deposit; instead, it's built off a line repeated in their seminal hit 'Hey Jealousy;' “If you don't expect too much from me, you might not be let down”.
 
It's going to be very tempting to expect too much from Hanson, given that four years ago, he pitched 202.2 innings of 3.33 ERA/3.31 FIP ball. The then-25 year old had an average fastball velocity of 92.7 miles per hour. As of last year, that had dropped to 89.9 miles per hour.  
 
If Tommy Hanson was a post-apocalyptic survivor movie, 2011 would be the mysterious apocalyptic event. Since then, he's been surviving on rainwater and scavenged cans of beans. More than anything else, the injuries started piling up. Key amongst them was right shoulder tendinitis, which, for a pitcher, should make all of us wince, put our opposite hand on our dominant shoulder, and rotate it a few times.  That same shoulder was once described as "Looking like burger meat” on the inside by Keith Law, which I suppose is really bad? I've never seen the inside of a shoulder in person, so I imagine hamburger is something bad for it to look like.
 
There have also been trips to DL in the past two years for a back strain and forearm strain (thankfully we have meat-like descriptions for neither of those injuries), as well as time lost due to the loss of his stepbrother last year. 
 
That's the equation that produces a 27 year old with two arbitration seasons remaining signing a minor league deal.  The next bit of that equation is the interesting part, which is what he'll produce this season, and whether what you're expecting from him is too much, and whether he'll let you down if you don't expect too much.
 
To put it simply, any major league production from Hanson will have to be satisfactory. Fangraphs' two projection systems, Oliver and Steamer, project Hanson around a hundred innings pitched in a low-to-mid 4 ERA. That would be pretty ideal; if Hanson were to pitch more innings, it likely means a more effective member of the rotation is out of duty. Given that the team has already lost roughly half of Derek Holland's performance for 2014, another loss off the rotation's four primary cogs would be very damaging. 
 
Of course, a return to his 2011 form is not impossible; it's just so unlikely that no one should calibrate their expectations around it.  I would peg that as less likely but no less welcomed than a 20-home run season out of Elvis.
 
I think the most likely result for Hanson is a lot of bus-riding, though. Going into Spring Training, Darvish, Harrison, and Perez will hold the top three spots, and Hanson enters into a scrum for the final two with Alexi Ogando, Colby Lewis, Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers, Nick Tepesch, and a small host of others.  While it's entirely possible Hanson could emerge from that as the Ranger's #5 starter in April, it's just not likely; he'd have to clearly outperform the more entrenched pitchers top leapfrog them (and, of course, you'll note all this is health-dependant, which is why I've been knocking on wood, like, every third keystroke). 
 
In other words, Hanson would likely have to wait for an injury or ineffectiveness from one of the other names above him in the pecking order- which very likely means he'll start the season in Round Rock, not on the 40 man roster. 
 
You could take that to mean this isn't a good signing, but the truth is it seems to be very solid. I think Hanson has a good shot at giving the Rangers some league-average innings through the grind of the regular season, which is something every team needs. There's a slight chance he has something better than that in him, as well, which is fantastic. The key is, if you don't expect too much from him, you might not be let down.
 
Joe Ursery met the lead singer of the Gin Blossoms once. It was the night before his brother in law's wedding and he was very drunk. He's still not sure what he said, but it could have been 'We found out about YOU, Mr. Gin Blossom!'. Follow @thejoeursery on twitter for more mid-90's rock jokes.

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