Fantasy Baseball Insider Trading: Joel Hanrahan

by Rich Arleo on July 14, 2011 @ 13:19:29 PDT

 


Some batters and pitchers on the other teams in your fantasy baseball league are becoming real drags. A few MLB players on your fantasy baseball team are performing better than you expected. Is it time to move in? KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Insider Trading series is your accomplice when it's time to do shady business in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball game.

Sell

Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh Pirates

Some saves speculators were originally expecting this to be Evan Meek's year, but perpetually future closer Hanrahan had a solid first season with the team in 2010. The Bucs decided to go with the latter as the closer entering spring training. Meek's struggles and shoulder soreness and Hanrahan's spring performance only widened the gap. The choice has paid off. Hanrahan, a first-time All Star, is a perfect 26-for-26 in save opportunities, with a 1.34 ERA and 0.92 WHIP.

Pittsburgh Pirates RP Joel Hanrahan
Will Hanrahan keep this up?

Some may be skeptical of Hanrahan, but there are things that indicate he could be for real. The biggest change has been his improved control. He's dropped his BB/9 drastically from 3.36 in 2010 (previously his lowest ever) to 1.79. This could be explained by his increased reliance on and confidence in his fastball, which this season he's thrown 84.7 percent of the time, using his slider just 15.3 percent of the time. Since he became a reliever in 2008, Hanrahan had never thrown his slider less than 30 percent of the time in a season.

This doesn't mean that he has no confidence in his slider anymore; he only needs to rely on it in key situations, something manager Clint Hurdle sees. "Until someone starts knocking it around the park, he's going to keep throwing it," Hurdle said of what he referred to as Hanrahan's "top-shelf velocity" fastball.

With this change has come a drop in strikeouts, which could be because of the decreased use of his slider. The contact hitters are making on the fastball just isn't dangerous. This is shown by the large increase in ground-ball percentage to 54.8 and decrease in fly-ball percentage to 26.0 percent - big changes from his career averages. This season he's yielded only 0.22 HR/9 and has posted a 3.7 percent HR/FB.

The issue with Hanrahan moving forward isn't that he's going to drop off the table; it's just that it is going to be difficult for him to keep up this pace. One could make the argument that the Pirates will fall off, and the save opportunities may slow down as well. Even if they don't, it will be difficult for Hanrahan to keep saving games at such a high rate. Relievers don't often go perfect in save opportunities; he's likely to blow a few saves. He's also leaving just under 85 percent of runners on base - some of those are bound to start scoring, and some of those are bound to score via the home run. Simply put, it's going to be difficult for him to keep up his pace for 47 saves.

Hanrahan should continue to be a good source of saves, and even if he does have a slip-up here and there, nobody in the 'pen poses an immediate threat. If you still need saves, then it's not going to hurt to hold on to Hanrahan and continue to enjoy a solid season. If you own him, though, chances are you're sitting pretty in the saves category. If you are, it doesn't hurt to shop him around.

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About Rich Arleo

Rich Arleo is a Marist College alum who has been playing fantasy sports since he was 14 years old. He is a local editor with AOL's Patch.com and became a staff writer with Bruno Boys Fantasy Football in 2010 and a contributor to KFFL in 2011.

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