But when the balloting results for this year's National League Rookie of the Year were announced Monday afternoon, Hanson found himself in third place, behind Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan and Phillies left-hander J.A. Happ.
Coghlan received 17 of 32 first-place votes and tallied 11 more points than Happ, who received 10 first-place votes and was the only candidate included on every ballot. While finishing a distant third, Hanson drew two first-place votes and was excluded from 15 of the 32 ballots.
Hanson may have been hurt by the fact that he spent the first two months of this season with Triple-A Gwinnett. Coghlan made his Major League debut on May 8, one month earlier than Hanson, and drew the attention of voters while hitting .388 in the 59 games that he played after July.
Recognized as the game's top right-handed prospect entering this year, Hanson waited through two months with Gwinnett and then proceeded to go 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA in the 21 starts that he made for Atlanta.
Hanson led all Major League rookies in ERA (2.89), strikeouts-per-nine innings (8.18), WHIP (1.18) and opponent's batting average (.225). The 23-year-old Hanson's 116 strikeouts and 11 wins ranked second among NL rookies to Happ, who compiled his 119 strikeouts and 12 victories over 38 1/3 more innings.
Dating back to his June 7 Major League debut, Hanson's ERA ranked seventh among all NL hurlers who compiled at least 100 innings over that span.
In other words, he lived up to the great expectations that were created in 2008, when he concluded a successful Minor League season and then proved dominant enough to become the first pitcher named the MVP of the Arizona Fall League.
"It's pretty hard to live up to expectations when everybody is expecting a shutout every time you pitch," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He lived up to it. That comes with makeup, his character and his abilities to fix things on the mound himself."
After surrendering three two-run homers in his debut against the Brewers, Hanson went 4-0 with a 0.78 ERA over his next four starts. The highlight of this span came during the final week of June, when he blanked the Yankees and the Red Sox.
Hanson limited the Yankees to four hits over 5 1/3 scoreless innings on June 23 and returned to the same Turner Field mound five days later to limit the Red Sox to two hits over six scoreless innings.
Although he completed over 50 innings more than he had during any previous professional season, Hanson finished the season strong, allowing one run or fewer in four of his past six starts.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less