Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Hanrahan Hate Has Gone Too Far

Scene: Big Joel Hanrahan lumbers out to the mound to pitch the 8th inning last night in Toronto.  The Red Sox are behind 8-7 at the time.  This is Hanrahan’s first appearance since being placed on the DL for a sore hammy.  Suddenly, the Red Sox Maineiacs‘ twitter time line blows up (all tweets are paraphrased):

“Why is Hanrahan in a high-leverage situation in his first appearance back from the DL?”
“I would have gone with Koji here. Can’t trust Hanrahan.”  

Big Hanny rocks and fires hot cheese at 97+ to his first batter J.P. Arencibia.  Arencibia responds by cracking a scorcher for a single.  The tweets continue:

“Hanrahan sucks.”
“Oh god, here we go again!”

Hanny Hard Stuff deals to Maicer Izturis, who sac bunts Arencibia to second base.  Hanrahan jumps off the mound to field the bunt and makes the put-out. His hammy appears fine.  Tweet:

“Fielding that bunt was a good test for Hanrahan’s hamstring. Actually throwing strikes would be a good test for his arm.”

Hanny Heater rocks and fires to Colby Rasmus, who hits a routine grounder to second base, only it scoots on the turf and gets by Dustin Pedroia.  This would have been an easy out in any ballpark in the majors with a grass infield.  Arencibia scores.  Twitter erupts:

“F***ing Hanrahan! What a sack of s***!”
“Put a pair of goggles on Hanrahan and he is Eric Gagne
“Hanrahan should absolutely not be allowed anywhere near a close game”
“If anybody needs proof why Bailey should keep the closer job, this is #exhibitA”
“Hanrahan should have stayed on the DL”

Han the Man then gets Munenori Kawasaki (who looks like a 7th grader and wears a breathe-right strip on his nose for crying out loud) and Brett Lawrie to end the inning.  If you’re scoring at home, The Hanra-hand grenade gave up one legit single, one turf single, and recorded three outs.  He threw 97+ mph, looked rusty with his slider, fielded a bunt, and escaped with only one run given up.  Twitter reacts as though it were the worst outing by a Red Sox reliever since Vaughn Eshelman toed the rubber (I actually have no idea if Eshelman was bad out of the pen or not, I just wanted to fulfill a life-long dream of working Vaughn Eshelman into a blog post).

I don’t get it.

Joel Hanrahan is a prototypical end-of-the-bullpen guy.  He’s big, he throws 97-98 mph, and he doesn’t seem to get overly-emotional.  He hasn’t done a great job of hitting his spots consistently this year, but he’s throwing gas.  To me, the amount of hard hit balls off of him is puzzling.  I would like to see him continue to develop a secondary pitch to keep hitters from sitting dead red, but what else do you want for makeup of a bullpen guy?  The Twitter Haters love to call Hanrahan a goggles-less Eric Gagne...but is that really an insult?  Let’s remember, Gagne has the third most saves (55) ever recorded in a single season.  Gagne won the 2003 NL Cy Young as a closer! He was sixth in MVP voting that season...again, as a closer! Hanrahan and Gagne are both the kind of horses you want throwing at the end of games.  The key is to own these pitchers before their careers careen off a cliff, as they usually do (Gagne, Bobby Jenks, Jonathan Broxton, etc.).  I’m just not buying that Hanrahan is falling off a cliff.  His stuff is still just too damn electric.

Let’s take a quick stroll through Hanrahan’s appearances this season, to try to find where all this hate is coming from:

April 1 - 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 K, 0 BB, 12 pitches, 8 strikes
April 3 - 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB, 21 pitches, 14 strikes (Save)
April 5 - 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 K, 1 BB, 16 pitches, 8 strikes (Save)
April 8 - 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 K, 0 BB, 16 pitches, 10 strikes (Save)
Total: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 3 K, 1 BB, 65 pitches, 40 strikes, 3 saves, 0 blown saves

Clearly, through four appearances, Hanrahan was lights out.  Here comes the stinker:

April 10 - 0.2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 1 K, 2 BB, 1 WP, 32 pitches, 18 strikes, (Blown Save)

The Red Sox had a 5-3 lead when Big Hanny entered, and a 8-5 deficit when he left without finishing the 9th inning.  But if you remember (and I sure as hell do), Hanrahan had a chance to close out the win with the bases loaded still ahead 5-4 with Nate McClouth at the plate.  The 2-2 pitch was a goddamned strike, but Salty The Incompetent flipped his glove around and caught it awkwardly, leading to a called ball three.  With a 3-2 count, Hanrahan threw another strike that Salty had to reach across the plate for.  The ump called ball four and the wheels completely came off from there.  But if Salty knew how to play the catcher position and receive a pitch correctly, Hanrahan would have saved this game too (albeit in ugly fashion) and he might still have his job regardless of his DL trip.  Three days later, Big Joel walked two batters without recording an out, was replaced, sent to the DL, and probably lost his closer job for good (that is until the inevitable Andrew Bailey injury.  Sorry, I had to).

Where does this go from here?  It seems as though John Farrell will elect to keep Andrew Bailey as his closer.  I have no problem with that.  Bailey is an all-star closer who has been lights out this year.  Hanrahan could be one of the best 8th inning guys in the majors if he gets a little tighter with his command and secondary pitch(es).  But I hope to hell the loud Hanrahan haters out there in Red Sox Nation tone it down some.  How about this for an idea?  Let’s support the guy.  Let’s realize that we have a potential bullpen stud here before we deride him to the point his confidence evaporates a la Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, or Daniel Bard.  So the next time Joel The Hammer Hanrahan takes the bump, I’ll be cheering for him to shut up all the haters.  If you call yourself a real Red Sox fan, you should too.


  1. So it's not Ok to attack the guys you like (Hello Hanny)? But it's Ok to attack the guys you don't like (Hello Salty)!

    As far as who closes for the rest of the year. I think if Hanny rights himself he will become the closer again at some point. I tend to agree with you Brandon that's it's too early to jump down Hanny' throat, but between spring training, regular season and rehab appearances he has been bad more often then he's been good. Not too mention last September with Pittsburgh. Let's hope he hasn't reached his cliff, but we need to see some proof to the contrary and soon!

    1. Hmmm...good point about attacking Salty and defending Hanrahan. I think it's because we have enough evidence now to confirm that Salty is a terrible defensive catcher and will be for the foreseeable future, while we don't have enough evidence yet to say that Hanrahan is a bad bullpen pitcher and shouldn't be used in high-leverage situations (in my opinion anyway).

  2. The fact that you used "hot cheese" and referenced Eric Gagne makes this the best post ever! Mathy