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Tommy Hanson's Cloudy Future

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Commentary | Tommy Hanson's once bright career hit a new low Tuesday night as he was demoted to Triple-A Salt Lake.

The Los Angeles Angels acquired Hanson from the Atlanta Braves in the offseason with hopes he would regain some semblance of the effective pitcher he was just a few years ago.

To no surprise, Hanson has not returned to form with the Angels. The move from the National League to the American League is usually a tough transition for pitchers to make, and Hanson, who already had red flags, has been no exception.

He has dealt with injuries and has pitched just 67.2 innings this season. Hanson's 4-3 record is accompanied with an abysmal 5.59 ERA and 1.58 WHIP.

The cause of Hanson's decline may be due to multiple shoulder injuries he dealt with during his 2011 campaign.

Hanson had a stint on the 15-day disabled list due to shoulder tendinitis in June 2011, and then was later placed on the 15-day disabled list again in August after an MRI revealed a tear in his rotator cuff.

The rotator cuff tear did not require surgery and Hanson rehabbed, but he was never able to return that season.

Hanson reworked his delivery in 2012 in an attempt to limit future ailments, but he has not been the same pitcher since the shoulder issues.

The major issue with Hanson has been the decline of his velocity. In 2010, Hanson's fastball velocity averaged out at 92.7 mph; since then, he has declined to 91.2 (2011), 89.7 (2012), and 89.4 (2013).

As a result of his declining stuff, Hanson's K/9 has taken a major dip in 2013. From an 8.30 K/9 (2012) all the way down to 6.92 (2013).

The amount of ground balls Hanson is inducing has also hit a new low. Hanson hovered around a 39% GB rate from 2011-2012, but that has sunk to 32.9% in 2013.

Less ground balls means more fly balls, and that percentage has peaked to a career-worst 44.3 FB% this season.

Hanson also still struggles with giving up the long ball, despite pitching in pitcher-friendly environments throughout his career. His 1.33 HR/9 is an improvement from 2012 but is a far cry from the 0.62 HR/9 in 2010.

Despite the limited sample size in 2013, the numbers are startling and Hanson has been trending downward for a couple of years now.

All of this does not necessarily mean Hanson's career is toast.

It was not too long ago that Scott Kazmir pitched his way out of Anaheim and ended up pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters.

Kazmir, too, experienced a major velocity dip, once tossing in the mid-90s to averaging out at 86.5 in 2011.

He has since returned to the major leagues after signing with the Cleveland Indians in the offseason. Kazmir has been fortunate to see his velocity return, averaging out at 92.3 thus far this year.

We should not expect Hanson to suddenly regain his velocity like Kazmir, but crazier things have happened.

Hanson's career has hit a crossroads. Instead of entering the prime of his career, he will likely end up signing a one-year deal in the offseason should the Angels non-tender him. Whether or not he will still be in the major leagues in a few years is a legitimate question, and speaks to the fragility that comes with being a pitcher.

James Patrick Lumalu lives in Los Angeles and has covered the MLB and NBA for Nationalist Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter: @jameslumalu.

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