You watch Tommy Hanson -- big (6-6), strong (220 pounds), young (24) and full-bearded -- and you see him throwing four pitches for strikes and you wonder: How, before throwing seven shutout innings in San Diego on Wednesday, did he have a losing record?
"Was he 2-3?" Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez responded when I popped that question.
The manager reached for the trash can and retrieved a crumpled up piece of paper. He eyed the sheet of statistics. He sighed.
"I would have never guessed that," Gonzalez said. "That's how well he's pitched."
Maybe, now that Hanson is 3-3, the trend will change. Last season, as the Braves returned to the playoffs for the first time in six years, he led the staff in strikeouts and tied Tim Hudson for the staff lead with 34 starts -- but finished 10-11.
In fact, he became the only Braves pitcher since the club moved to Atlanta in 1966 to make at least 30 starts, compile an ERA of 3.50 or better ... and still have a losing record.
In limiting the Padres to four hits while striking out 10, Hanson used each one of his pitches to great effect: Fastball, slider, changeup and curve. The big difference this year, he hopes, is that he's even more confident in his curve, and he's refined his slider enough that he's got more confidence in that.
Plus, what he's really locked in on this year is throwing each pitch with conviction.
"Don't take any pitches off," Hanson says. "It sounds so easy, but it's hard. If I take one pitch at a time and execute that pitch at that moment, I'm going to have some success."
He'll also have some success if the Braves score for him: One big reason he went 10-11 last season was because the Braves average just 2.3 runs while he was in the game in 2010, and just 4.1 runs total during games in which he started.
That run support was the 13th-worst in the NL among ERA qualifiers.