Exhibition games are winding down - one last meaningless game in San Francisco before the Braves and the Phillies kick it off tonight. The Braves finished a pair of exhibition games against the Tigers on Saturday, and I'm going to get some serious mileage out of that resulting PITCHf/x data.
Ken Kawakami got the start for the Braves, and it wasn't good. Tommy Hanson relieved him with two out in the third, and got his nine outs before being relieved by Kris Medlen, who finished the last three and a third. Medlen is Atlanta's #9 prospect, but I'll resist temptation and focus on Kawakami - a big leaguer for the first time in 2009 - and Hanson, who is headed down to Gwinett with Medlen.
Here's the relevant portion of Saturday's boxscore:
Atlanta IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA Kawakami (L, 2-2) 2.2 3 4 4 7 0 0 3.09 Hanson 3.0 7 4 4 0 4 1 4.08 Medlen 3.1 3 0 0 0 3 0 4.26
Kawakami also pegged Magglio with a pitch, but one walk was intentional. Call it a wash. Hanson wasn't exactly brilliant, so I'll just throw away the lines (as I should) and focus on their pitches.
I'm not 100% sure on Kawakami's pitch IDs, I'll need some more data. Hanson is more straight-forward but still imperfect. I'm 90% sure on the split of Hanson's fastballs, but only 75% on Kawakami. You should also note Gameday was calling both of Hanson's breaking pitches curveballs, but one is just a really good slider.
Click images for larger versions
Kawakami's flight paths run an extra 25ms, he's not throwing as hard as Hanson and Kawakmi's curveball is verrrrry slooooow. On the catcher's views (right-pane), the bigger the bubble, the slower the pitch at home plate.
When Kawakami was ahead on Tiger hitters (15 pitches in such counts) hitters had an equal taste of his splitter, curve and four-seamer (four each). The remaining pitches he threw while ahead were cutters (2) and the lone two-seam fastball*.
The rest of the time, Kawakami was pretty much fastball/curveball with the occasional cutter. He wasn't locating the fastball very well, which is likely the root of all his problems on Saturday. If you can't get strikes with a four-seamer that's your primary pitch, you're in trouble.
*The flight path for Kawakami above is for that pitch - it's the only one in the sample.
Hanson, meanwhile, was able to get ahead of hitters, which is no surprise based on his line. He started almost every hitter with the heat, and he was pounding the zone. Hanson found the real-world two foot zone on 62.7% of his tosses - dwarfing Kawakami's 35.6%.
All of Hanson's whiffs came on his fastballs - the heater and the sinker. Hitters simply did not offer at his breaking pitches. Only one of 13 sliders was appetizing enough, and it was a fat one to Miguel Cabrera on a 2-1 count. Miggy doubled.
When ahead, Hanson used the slider one out four pitches. When he was behind, it was still the slider, exactly 25% (4/16). The curve was used roughly 30% of the time when either ahead or even. It wasn't used when behind, with the exception of one on a full count.
There isn't much you can conclude from a single outing, but Hanson clearly has excellent stuff. I've seen him pitch well, and I've seen him pitch poorly. Even when struggling with his command, he's still electric. And the wildest I saw him, this Spring, he was missing down, way down, or out. IIRC.
Kawakami is more of mystery to me - I've not seen him pitch, although he's just a click away on MLB.TV. I typically looked for Hanson's games on there this Spring, not Kawakami's. Like I said, the fastballs may include some actual sinkers, not the oddball "two-seamer" he threw to Josh Anderson. Still, the Braves will certainly hope he shows better command soon - and Hanson's just a phone call away.