Joel Hanrahan

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Joel Ryan Hanrahan

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Joel Hanrahan made his Major League debut as a starting pitcher for the Washington Nationals against the New York Mets on July 28, 2007. He pitched six innings without figuring in the decision, but the day's highlight was the triple he hit in his first at bat. Not since Doug Rau in 1972 had a pitcher accomplished that feat. He is the brother of Mark Hanrahan.

Hanrahan was a second round choice of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2000 amateur draft out of high school. He was signed by scout Mitch Webster and made his pro debut that summer. Hanrahan played for seven seasons in the Dodgers' organization without reaching the majors. He was 10-6, 4.20 for the Florida State League's Vero Beach Dodgers in 2002 and followed that with his best season in 2003, when he went 10-4, 2.43 in 23 starts for the Jacksonville Suns of the AA Southern League. He was named the league's outstanding pitcher and made the AA All-Star team, as well as earning a 5-game callup to the AAA Las Vegas 51's of the Pacific Coast League. However, he was roughed up in those games, ending up with a 10.08 ERA, and did not fare much better the following season in the hitter-friendly PCL: he went 7-7, 5.05 in 25 games, with 75 walks and 128 hits in 119 innings. He was sent back down to AA in 2005, but his 9-8, 4.92 record was not much better, and he went down one other rung of the minor league ladder, back to Vero Beach, to try to right himself. Back in AA in 2006, he found his groove again, with a 7-2, 2.60 record in 12 starts and earned another promotion to Las Vegas. There he went 4-3, 4.48 in 14 starts, and as the Dodgers left him off their major league roster after the season, he became a minor league free agent, signing with Washington on November 6, 2006.

Starting 2007 with the Columbus Clippers of the International League, Hanrahan had a 5-5 record with a solid 3.70 ERA in 14 starts to earn his promotion to the Majors with the Nationals at the end of July. He had struck out 71 batters in 75 innings in AAA. In the National League, he put up a record of 5-3 in 12 games (11 starts) but with a poor ERA of 6.00.

Hanrahan spent all of 2008 with the Nationals, appearing in 69 games, all in relief. Thanks to a relatively obscure scoring rule, he set a record on May 10, 2008 -- unnoticed at the time -- by allowing four inherited runners to score in one inning. No other NL/AL pitcher had done so. Hanrahan took over as the team's closer in the season's second half, after Jon Rauch was traded to Arizona. He went 6-3, 3.95 with 9 saves, but impressed most with his 93 strikeouts in 84⅓ innings of work, making him one of the team's few bright spots in what was a wretched season. His work also caught the attention of Team USA, who made him a late addition to its roster for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, after relievers B.J. Ryan, Joe Nathan and Brian Fuentes had pulled out from the competition.

After a fairly disastrous start to his 2009 season with the Nationals, Joel was traded along with Lastings Milledge to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan. He regained his touch with the help of pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and has resumed a productive major league career. He took over as the Pirates closer in 2011 and had a great season, saving 40 games with a 1.83 ERA; he was named to the National League All-Star team.

Hanrahan's numbers fell off somewhat for the 2012 Pirates at 5-2, 36 Sv, 2.72 with 67 K, 40 H and 36 BB in 59 2/3 IP; he had a 2.38 ERA in the first half but 3.16 in the second half. He was 5th in the National League in saves. In the 2012 All-Star Game, he relieved Wade Miley in the 9th inning with one out and an 8-0 lead. He threw a wild pitch then struck out Billy Butler. Jonathan Papelbon replaced him to end the game.

After the 2012 season, Pittsburgh decided that Hanrahan's price tag was too high and on December 26th shipped him with prospect Brock Holt to the Boston Red Sox for former prospects Mark Melancon, Jerry Sands, Iván DeJesús Jr. and Stolmy Pimentel, while planning to hand his closing role to Jason Grilli. For their part, the Red Sox immediately announced that Hanrahan was their new closer, taking over for Andrew Bailey. He picked up three saves in his first four appearances of 2013, but then gave up 5 runs in two-thirds of an inning over his next two outings and was placed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. While he was out, Bailey took over the closer's job and pitched well, but then got injured in turn, which meant that Hanrahan could step right back into his former responsibilities when he returned to action on April 30th. With Bailey out, he picked up his 4th save on May 2nd, showing some of his old form. However, the reprieve did not last, as he had to leave the game on May 6th with tightness in his forearm, after giving up a game-tying homer to Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins. The prognosis was bad, as he was quickly transferred to the 60-day disabled list, and had to undergo surgery on his flexor tendon, combined with Tommy John surgery.

Hanrahan signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Tigers on May 2, 2014, with the hope that he would be ready to return to the big leagues in June. That proved to be wildly optimistic, as he did not even pitch in the minors that season, but he showed up in spring training in 2015 hoping to make the team. However he had to undergo Tommy John surgery again and never made it back to the majors, announcing his retirement after the 2016 season.

There was nothing subtle about Hanrahan on the mound. Before surgery, he had one of the best fastballs in the major leagues, averaging over 97 mph, and he threw it about as often as any pitcher. His entire approach was to challenge the batter to hit his heater, and more often than not, the batter was incapable of catching up. When he lost a few miles on his fastball however, his career went into a tailspin as he had nothing to fall back on.

After a few years away from professional baseball, Hanrahan returned to the Pirates as a coach in 2017. He was originally named an assistant pitching coach for the West Virginia Black Bears, but was moved to the Bristol Pirates as their pitching coach before the season began. Hanrahan was the pitching coach for the West Virginia Power in 2018, and Altoona Curve in 2019. He was scheduled to coach the Indianapolis Indians in 2020 before the season was cancelled due to COVID-19, then did coach Indianapolis in 2021.

Hanrahan moved to the Washington Nationals' organization as pitching coach of the Fredericksburg Nationals in 2022 and Harrisburg Senators in 2023-2024.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Gary Belleville: "May 10, 2008: Washington’s Joel Hanrahan allows four inherited runners to score in one inning," SABR Baseball Games Project. [1]
  • Adam Berry: "Former All-Star closer Hanrahan retires,", November 15, 2016. [2]

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