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No Need To Worry About Hanson, Braves

In the wake of the Braves' pathetic sweep at the hands of the White Sox, during which the southsiders teed off on Tommy Hanson to the tune of nine runs and 13 hits in less than four innings, it would be natural to be worried about the Braves and their young hurler.

Don't be.

Hanson has had two terrible games this year (he also gave up eight runs in less than two innings to the Reds), but aside from that has been excellent. His ERA is much higher than last year's (4.17 versus 2.89), but if you take out those two terrible games his ERA would actually be lower than last year's: 2.56.

Obviously, you can't just ignore those two bad games. But even if you include them, Hanson has been just as good as last year by most measures. In fact, his strikeout rate is up (8.97 K/9 this year versus 8.18 last year) and his walk rate is down (3.02 BB/9 this year versus 3.24 last year). His velocity is also up this year by 1-2 miles per hour. Though Hanson has induced slightly fewer ground balls this year, that is not a huge cause for concern (he's a strikeout and fly ball pitcher). The main culprit in Hanson's relatively high ERA is luck, and once that evens out, his ERA will look better. Expect him to finish with an ERA around 3.50.

As for the Braves, every team has a bad series once in a while. They happened to run into the White Sox at the exact wrong time; the Sox have now won nine straight. A positive sign is that the Braves are returning to Turner Field, where they have a league-best 21-7 record. Even better, the Braves have played the fewest number of home games in the league, so for the rest of the season, they'll have a built-in advantage over the Mets and Phillies, who must play on the road more often.

Besides, after seeing the Braves rebound from that horrific nine-game losing streak from earlier this year, I am not the least bit worried about the resilience of this team. Once interleague play ends, the Braves have four straight series against their division rivals. If and when they take care of business in those games, the nightmare in Chicago will seem like nothing but a momentary blip on the road to another division title.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.