JOEL HANRAHAN
RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
Born: October 6, 1981
Height: 6′ 3″
Weight: 215
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Drafted: 2nd Round, 57th Overall, 2000
How Acquired: Trade (for Nyjer Morgan/Sean Burnett)
High School: Norwalk HS (Norwalk, IA)
Agent: Reynolds Sports Management

WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES

The Pirates acquired Hanrahan, along with Lastings Milledge, in a mid-2009 trade for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett.  As a starter with the Dodgers’ and Nationals’ organizations, he featured a heavy, low-90s sinker that he was very successful in keeping down in his early Dodger years, as well as a good slider and a solid change.  After moving to relief, his velocity increased to the mid-90s and he began using his slider as his only secondary pitch most of the time.  His platoon split has been minimal over his career.  Until 2011, he was a flyball pitcher, with flyball rates hovering around 40%.

2000
R+:  3-1-0, 4.75 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 55 IP, 3.8 BB/9, 6.5 K/9

Had a decent debut in rookie ball in 12 games, 11 starts.

2001
A:  9-11-0, 3.38 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 144 IP, 3.4 BB/9, 7.2 K/9 

Pitched in low A at age 19 and did very well, establishing himself as a top prospect.

2002
A+:  10-6-0, 4.20 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 143.2 IP, 3.2 BB/9, 8.7 K/9
AA:  1-1-0, 10.64 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 11 IP, 5.7 BB/9, 8.2 K/9

Pitching most of the year in high A, producing a higher ERA than the year before, but better numbers otherwise.  He finished the season with three starts in AA.

2003
AA:  10-4-0, 2.43 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 133.1 IP, 3.6 BB/9, 8.8 K/9
AAA:  1-2-0, 10.08 ERA, 2.24 WHIP, 25 IP, 7.2 BB/9, 4.7 K/9

Had a big year in AA, putting up good numbers that included only five HRs.  He finished with five starts in AAA, but struggled there.

2004
AAA:  7-7-0, 5.05 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 119.1 IP, 5.7 BB/9, 7.3 K/9

Hanrahan hit a wall in AAA, struggling especially with walks and HRs, allowing one of the latter more than once every five innings.

2005
A+:  1-0-0, 5.91 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 21.1 IP, 4.6 BB/9, 10.5 K/9
AA:  10-8-0, 5.08 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 133 IP, 4.5 BB/9, 8.6 K/9 

Hanrahan started going backward through the Dodgers’ system even faster than he came up, as he was sent down to AA and then high A.  He continued to struggle at both levels, both with walks and HRs (one every six innings), although he continued to strike batters out.

2006
AA:  7-2-0, 2.58 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 66.1 IP, 5.2 BB/9, 9.1 K/9
AAA:  4-3-0, 4.48 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 74.1 IP, 4.7 BB/9, 5.6 K/9 

Hanrahan made his way back to AA and then AAA, pitching well at the former level but not at the latter.  After the season he became a minor league free agent without ever reaching the majors with the Dodgers.

2007
AAA:  5-4-0, 3.70 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 75.1 IP, 4.3 BB/9, 8.5 K/9
MLB:  5-3-0, 6.00 ERA, 1.90 WHIP, 51 IP, 6.7 BB/9, 7.6 K/9 

Signed with the Nationals and pitched reasonably well in AAA as a starter, with a 3.74 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, although walks and HRs (1.2 per nine innings) remained a problem.  With the Nats desperate for pitching, he got called up and struggled in 11 starts.  He walked a lot and allowed nine HRs in just 51 innings.  His fastball averaged a little under 92.

2008
MLB:  6-3-9, 3.95 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 84.1 IP, 4.5 BB/9, 9.9 K/9 

Made the Nationals’ bullpen out of spring training and showed significant improvement, including increased velocity of 95 mph and a high K rate.  He eventually won the closer’s job, finishing with nine saves and a 3.95 ERA.

2009
MLB (Wash):  1-3-5, 7.71 ERA, 1.96 WHIP, 32.2 IP, 3.9 BB/9, 9.6 K/9
MLB (Pgh):  0-1-0, 1.72 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 31.1 IP, 5.7 BB/9, 10/6 K/9 

Opened as the Nats’ closer but lost the job twice due to severe ineffectiveness.  There hasn’t been any indication that Hanrahan was hurt; he still had a high K rate and his walk rate actually improved.  For some reason, though, his opponents’ batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was a staggering .451.  It’s possible he was pitching in an enormous amount of bad luck, as well as pitching in front of an extremely bad defense; the Nats did, in fact, rank last in NL in UZR and next-to-last in defensive efficiency at the time he was traded.  He pitched much better with the Pirates, despite problems throwing strikes at times.  In fact, he occasionally failed to get through an inning because he couldn’t get the ball over.  For whatever reason, he didn’t get hit nearly as hard–his opponents’ average dropped from .342 with the Nats to .204–and allowed no HRs.  His BABIP dropped to .309, which was more in line with his career numbers.

2010
R:  0-0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP, 2 IP, 0.0 BB/9, 13.5 K/9
MLB:  4-1-6, 3.62 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 69.2 IP, 3.4 BB/9, 12.9 K/9

Opened the season on the DL with a sore elbow.  Soon after his return, Hanrahan gave up six runs in a mopup outing in one of the horrendous blowout losses that characterized the Pirates’ early season.  It took his ERA much of the year to recover from that.  He quickly established himself, though, as a top setup man.  His fastball velocity was higher than before, routinely reaching 97-98, and his slider missed enough bats to produce one of the highest K rates in MLB.  In fact, his 100 Ks came within two of leading the entire staff, which says a lot about both Hanrahan and the Pirates’ starters.  He usually had problems only when he tried to go with the same pitch too often.  He remained a flyball pitcher, but mostly kept the ball in the park.  He had a little trouble with left-handed batters.  They hit only .219 against him, but had four of the six HRs and 16 of the 26 walks he allowed.  He did most of closing after the team traded Octavio Dotel, getting six saves while Evan Meek got four.

2011
MLB:  1-4-40, 1.83 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 68.2 IP, 2.1 BB/9, 8.0 K/9 

The Pirates decided just before the start of spring training to go with Hanrahan rather than Meek as their closer.  The decision worked out as he established himself as one of the most dominant relievers in MLB.  In the process, he significantly changed his pitching patterns, going much more often with his fastball and sacrificing strikeouts for grounders.  His average fastball velocity increased from 96 to 97.  The pitch has tremendous sink, resulting in a groundball rate of 52.4%, well above his previous high of 42.6%.  As a result, opponents had extreme difficulty hitting long drives against him.  He allowed just one HR and opponents slugged a meager .276 against him.  His rate of inducing double plays nearly tripled from the previous year and he cut his walk rate by over a third.  His K/9 dropped dramatically, but that was still good.  He slumped a little bit down the stretch.  After converting his first 26 save opportunities, he blew four after mid-July.  It could be he tired a little, or it could be that he pitched better with more frequent work, as the Pirates had few save opportunities during the last two months.  In any event, he still pitched very well or better throughout the year and some ups and downs are inevitable.

2012
MLB:  5-2-36, 2.72 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 59.2 IP, 5.4 BB/9, 10.1 K/9

For reasons I’m not aware of, Hanrahan reverted to his 2010 form in 2012.  He went back to throwing a lot of sliders, although not as much as two years ago; according to Pitchf/x, he threw 29.9% sliders in 2010, 16.5% in 2011, and 24.7 % in 2012.  His fastball velocity also dropped back to 2010 levels, averaging 95.9 mph.  The end results were more similar to 2010 as well.  His K rate went back over one per inning and he had gopher ball problems, allowing eight, which gave him his highest HR rate since 2007.  His walk rate increased dramatically, although it was offset in part by a career-low opponents’ batting average of .187, the result of an unsustainably low BABIP of .225.  His groundball rate declined sharply, from 52.4% to 38.7%.  Still, despite a lot of shaky outings, he managed to blow only four saves, the same number as 2011.  Unfortunately, one came in the game that clinched the Pirates’ 20th consecutive losing season.  Hanrahan struggled throughout September, walking more (10) than he struck out (9) and allowing an opponents’ OPS of .934.  He had very few opportunities to pitch in meaningful situations during the Pirates’ customary late-season collapse, so maybe that played a role.

Hanrahan has been the subject of constant trade speculation, mainly from fans who believe closers are overrated and therefore want the Pirates to cash in while Hanrahan is at the peak of his marketability.  The Pirates made no move to deal Hanrahan during the 2012 season, but it became clear shortly after the season that they were trying to trade him.  His likely arbitration award, probably somewhere around $7M, no doubt played a big role.  With the Pirates having re-signed Jason Grilli, speculation about Hanrahan will no doubt  become even more intense.

STATS
Baseball Reference–Majors
Baseball Reference–Minors
Fangraphs
MLB.com
MiLB.com
CONTRACT INFORMATION
2013: Arbitration salary
2012:
$4,100,000 (avoided arbitration)
2011:
$1,400,000 (avoided arbitration)
2010: $453,000
2009: $420,000
2008: $400,000
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: $615,000
MiLB Debut: 2000
MLB Debut: 7/28/2007
MLB FA Eligible: 2014
Added to 40-Man: 7/28/2007
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2004, 2005, 2007)
MLB Service Time: 5.065
TRANSACTIONS
June 5, 2000: Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2nd round, 57th overall pick; signed on June 22.
January 17, 2006: Designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
November 6, 2006: Signed with the Washington Nationals as a free agent.
February 6, 2007: Re-signed with the Washingtion Nationals.
July 28, 2007: Contract purchased by the Washington Nationals.
June 30, 2009: Acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Washington Nationals along with Lastings Milledge in exchange for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett.