It is a truth universally acknowledged, that Ryan Hanigan is a righteous dude.
But on this off-day, instead of casting him as a Fitzwilliam Darcy in a zany baseball oriented retelling of a Jane Austen novel (there’s got to be something clever like “catching” a husband, or something), I’m just going to talk, a lot, about Mr. Ryan Hanigan. I mean, I assume you’ve already got the basic factoids, like “Ryan Hanigan played in the Cape Cod League” and “Ryan Hanigan played against the Reds in spring training when he was at Rollins college”, so instead I’ll pontificate on other Hanigan-related-matters.
Ryan #1 (Sorry, Ryan Ludwick, you are the #2 Ryan in my heart) is a hitter unlike any other on this Reds team. He walks more than anyone (11.8 %), except Joey Votto. He strikes out less than anyone (10.2%), including Joey Votto. This is generally considered a valuable skill-set, but most advanced metrics do not rate him highly, essentially due to his really, really low power numbers.
I mean really low. Ryan has 14 extra base hits this year. Among players with 250 or more PA in the NL, Ryan Hanigan is tied for 6th fewest XBH with Juan Pierre and Logan Forsythe. Among Reds hitters, Hanigan’s 0.065 ISO is the lowest, other than Wilson Valdez. His slugging is actually the only number that’s really changed between this year and last – he’s only hit 2 home runs this year, fewer than 2011 or 2010, but he’s hit approximately the same number of extra base hits – it just looks like they’re mostly doubles this year, instead of homers.
While the high OBP/low SLG model is not a very common one, and pretty rare for a catcher, it’s one we’ve seen before. Scott Hatteberg was a not-totally-dissimilar hitter. However, while Hatteberg and Hanigan share BB/K rates, plate discipline, and the first two letters of their last name, Hattberg definitely had at least some power – slugging in the low .400s with the Reds. Of course, value-wise, Hanigan has the defensive advantage. While both players have a good defensive reputation, Hanigan does it at catcher, a position that Hatteberg couldn’t play after his elbow went out.
Hanigan has a very, very low whiff rate, due to a pretty low swing rate and very high contact rate, similar to Hatteberg. In Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, Hatteberg is portrayed as spending a lot of time looking at scouting reports and watching video, and mentions that he’s always naturally had good hand-eye coordination – especially when it comes to making contact. Whether the same is true of Hanigan, I’ve no idea, as, as far as I know, there’s been little press on the startingest-backup-catcher there ever was.
You’ve got to assume that someday Hanigan will either sign elsewhere, or slowly get relegated to the backup role. I mean, if nothing else, he’s not going to be catching into his 50s. Probably. Of course, the temporary failings of Devin Mesoraco have added sort of another bump to the usual proceedings. Mesoraco has not hit well, and seen less and less playing time as the year progresses. He’s almost certainly still the catcher of the future, but it’s not clear what the plan is going forward. Hope he gets it together in the offseason and do a repeat of early 2012? Or send him back to AAA for a little, to get his hitting legs back under him?
In any case, Ryan Hanigan has, so far, accepted the ever-changing playing time/roles thrust at him with grace, and I hope he’ll so in the future. Whatever happens, I hope to see Ryan with the Reds organization for a long time.