Pitching Mechanics Analysis
Over the years, a number of people — many of whom are
fantasy baseball owners from sites like rotoworld.com — have asked me what I think of
the pitching mechanics of Tommy
Hanson of the Atlanta Braves. I don't think I've said anything
publicly about Tommy Hanson's pitching mechanics, but in private
e-mails I have had exchanges like this one from July 2009...
QUESTION: I came across your website
recently and I appreciate the work that you do. You seem
well educated in the fundamental mechanics for a pitcher
and I enjoy reading what you have to say. Recently the
Braves promoted Tommy Hanson, a
prospect that is very exciting to watch, and even more
exciting when one sits back and takes in the amount of poise
he has for such a young player so early in his career.
However, I have been in a constant argument with a friend of
mine that based on the way that he throws the ball that
Hanson is looking at elbow or
shoulder issues in the near future (before age 29). I
would love to have you as a source to either validate my
argument or shoot me down and tell me I don't know squat!
Let me know if you'd be interested in taking a look at him.
ANSWER: He makes me nervous because his
elbow gets a bit high. More importantly, he has the slow,
slow, fast pacing (ala Matt Clement) that I'm not a fan of.
I wish he was smoother in his pacing instead of speeding up
from the high-cocked position.
...and this one from December 2009...
QUESTION: Driveline Mechanics says Tommy
Hanson's arm action is good, but I see that his elbow gets higher than
his shoulder. You say that's a bad thing. What do you think
of Tommy Hanson's pitching mechanics?
arm action isn't that bad but it does look like he's got a
timing problem. His PAS forearm is late.
Given that Tommy Hanson seems to be blowing up, I thought
it would be helpful if I went into what I saw and why I said
what I did.
A Not-Terrible Arm Action
glaring in Tommy Hanson's arm action. There's no
Inverted W or
Inverted L. While there might be a hint of
Inverted V in his arm action, it's borderline at best.
In truth, Tommy Hanson just shows some
While that makes me a bit nervous, I'm not
sure that Hyperabduction is (all that) bad in and of itself.
Two Significant Problems
Having said that, Tommy Hanson does have two significant
problems that are likely behind his current arm problems.
Slow, Slow, Fast
As I alluded to above, Tommy Hanson has the slow-slow-fast
pacing like Jaime
Garcia that I don't like because it is often characteristic
of inefficient, arm-y, top-down pitchers. In my experience,
it also makes pitchers more vulnerable to developing a
timing problem (aka rushing).
Notice, in the clip above, how Tommy Hanson starts out slowly
and then, all of a sudden, rapidly rushes forward toward the
plate. I saw this slow-slow-fast pacing in Matt Clement and I
think it contributed to his problems. I also see it in Kyle
McClellan and think it will keep him from staying healthy as a
I much prefer pitchers who
are smooth and who gradually pick up their pace toward the plate
rather than suddenly rushing forward toward the plate.
Major Timing Problem
The other, bigger, and related problem that
Tommy Hanson has is a major timing problem.
The thing to notice is how he breaks his hands normally and
his arm swing is fairly standard. However, Tommy Hanson's Pitching Arm Side (PAS) forearm basically stalls
on the way up to the high-cocked position.
His PAS forearm
starts to externally rotate and then, in Frame 29 and Frame 30,
it stalls at about 20 degrees of external rotational (just a bit
above horizontal). A couple of frames later, Tommy Hanson pulls
back with his glove, his front heel plants, his shoulders start to rotate and, all
of a sudden, his PAS arm flips over and lays back into external rotation.
The problem is that "all of a sudden" process puts a
significant amount of strain on the elbow and the shoulder.
That rapid external rotation happens especially quickly and
forcefully because Tommy Hanson's PAS forearm isn't in the
correct position when his front foot plants and his shoulders
start to rotate.
The problems with Tommy Hanson's pitching mechanics that I
discuss above, combined with the fact that he is having shoulder
problems, the root cause of
which can't be isolated, scream "labrum problem" to me. That, of course,
doesn't bode well for Tommy Hanson's long-term prospects.
If I ran the zoo, I would shut Tommy Hanson down for 2011 and
pray that he heals during the off-season. I would then convert
him to a closer. His timing isn't going to allow him to stay
healthy as a starter.
The BRaves Are Listening
I just saw
this piece about Tommy Hanson and it sounds like someone
with the Braves saw this piece and decided to try to fix the
problem I point out. Hopefully, they caught the problem soon
 I just came across
by Will Carroll in which he mentions that Tommy Hanson has
an impingement. Well, an impingement is one of the things you
run the risk of when you get your PAS elbow up and keep it up.
Perhaps that's all it is, but I doubt it. While there may indeed
be an impingement and a problem with the rotator cuff, I
wouldn't be surprised if there is something bigger going on in
Tommy Hanson's shoulder.
 The way that Tommy Hanson's arm stalls
out on the way up to the high-cocked position is also obvious in
this clip from the consistently terrible (and horribly named)
baseball-intellect.com web site.