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Braves-Giants Game 2: Breaking Down Tommy Hanson vs. Matt Cain

Tommy Hanson: 3.33 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 3.09 K/BB, .297 BABIP, 1.00 GB/FB, 15.8 wFB, 11.5 wSL, -1.2 wCB, 0.6 wCH

Hanson had a great sophomore season and actually threw the ball better than he did last year. His strikeouts were a bit down but so were his walks, which allowed his FIP to drop 0.19 points. In 202.2 innings, Hanson struck out 173 batters and walked 56, a solid ratio for a power pitcher.

The wFB, wSL, wCB, and wCH statistics mentioned above are wins per pitch type. FB is fastball, SL is slider, CB is curveball, and CH is changeup. As you can see, his fastball and slider are by far his best pitches. He uses his curveball sporadically and it is sometimes effective. He throws his fastball on 57.0% of his pitches and his slider 28% of the time. His fastball was the thirteenth most productive in the N.L. while his slider was seventh. Obviously, he has two top notch pitches that he will use to get both right-handers and left-handers out.

Matt Cain: 3.14 ERA, .365 FIP, 2.90 K/BB, .260 BABIP, 0.78 GB/FB, 23.6 wFB, 0.0 wSL, 0.6 wCB, 5.2 wCH

Cain had a bit luckier of a season than Hanson, as you can tell with his low BABIP and the difference between his ERA and FIP. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is a bit lower, which points to him fortunately having balls hit to his fielders. His xFIP sits at 4.19 due to his knack for allowing fly balls, although he has been able to keep a majority of them in the ballpark. The stat xFIP normalizes home run-to-fly ball ratio, but he has obviously been able to control that facet of his game throughout his career, since his lifetime xFIP is 4.43. 

Cain's top pitch is without a doubt his fastball. It was the fourth most effective in the N.L. and his only pitch anywhere near the leaders in the league. It is not as effective for him this year compared to last, mostly since his average velocity dropped a whole mile per hour from 92.6 to 91.6, but that has helped his changeup become a more effective pitch. His changeup, which sat at 86.4mph now averages 84.8mph. His wCH last season was 3.0 and this year it is 5.2, proving that he is using it better than he has the past few seasons. Cain doesn't have much of a breaking ball, as both his slider and curve rate somewhere near average to below average pitches, especially his curveball which he throws 13.5% of the time. If the Braves are able to take advantage of poor breaking balls, then they should be able to finally get some runs on the board. Keying on first pitch fastballs will also be wise, because Cain is certain to throw a ton of them in tonight's outing.


I had the Braves losing the first game but winning this game. Tommy Hanson is a better pitcher, despite his higher ERA. He strikes out more batters and walks the same amount, and he also forces many more ground balls than Cain. In 202.2 innings, Hanson had a 4.3 fWAR (Fangraphs WAR) while Cain had a 4.0 fWAR in 223.1 innings, pointing out that Hanson has been more effective this season even with more runs allowed. The Braves need Hanson to come through tonight, and I have full confidence that the big-right hander will produce in his first ever playoff outing.

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