I get questions all day about players, and one I’m constantly fielding queries about is Aaron Harang of the Padres. Since I can’t write what I need to in 140 characters on Twitter, and so as to save myself having to answer the same question in email 13 times, here are my thoughts on the righty.
First off, don’t let anyone tell you I’m a Johnny Come Lately with Harang as I had him ranked 82nd amongst all starting pitchers coming into 2011. It’s not just that I had him there, ahead of many others, it should also be noted that I specifically denoted him as a pitcher I would target late. Why did I feel that way? There were three main reasons.
(1) Harang appeared to be healthy after struggling for a couple of seasons to stay on the field.
(2) He was moving home, he was born in San Diego, to pitch in the best park in the majors for pitchers.
(3) He really wasn’t as bad the past few years as most people seemed to think.
Points #1 and #2 are self explanatory, and if you think #2 is poppy cock, here is what I think of you – you’re confused. Think about it. Do you feel more at ease when you have that first date at your place where you can control the temperature, the food, the wine and the ambiance OR do you feel more comfortable going to your dates house hoping that he/she has a clean bathroom you could use if you have to go? Exactly.
As for his work on the field, here is a brief history of Harang’s accomplishments.
From 2002-04 he was finding his footing in the bigs.
In 2005 he had his first 200-inning season winning 11 games with a 3.83 ERA and 1.27 WHIP.
In 2006 he won 16 games, had 216 Ks, posted a 3.76 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP over 234.1 innings.
In 2007 he posted a nearly identical effort to ’06: 16 wins, 218 Ks, 3.73 ERA, 1.14 WHIP over 231.2 innings.
In 2008 things fell apart as he went 6-17 with a 4.78 ERA and in 2009 he was nearly as bad (6-14, 4.21 ERA). Last year things were even worse as he posted a 5.32 ERA and 1.59 WHIP over 111.2 innings. Given that work from 2008-10, how could I possibly state above that he really wasn’t that bad a hurler last year? Here’s how.
From 2008-2010 Harang made 78 appearances. Even though his ratios were horrible, 4.71 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP, while his record was abysmal at 18-36, there was some good just below the surface. Honestly.
Harang posted a 7.40 K/9 mark which was better than the big league average of 7.12 in that time.
Harang walked a mere 2.57 guys per nine innings from 2008-10, well below the big league mark in that time of 3.44.
It’s only two categories I know, but the point is that even though he really struggled the past three years, there were still a few reasons not to abandon ship.
Third, always a homer prone hurler, Harang moved from a park that was second best for home run hitters the past three years (Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati) to Petco in San Diego – the hardest park to go deep in according to Park Indices.
So far, so good.
3-0, 1.50 ERA, 16 K, 0.94 WHIP in 18 IP
Harang has started off white hot. The Ks have been there – 8.00 per nine – and as expected he has (a) limited the walks allowing just 2.50 per nine and (b) avoided the dreaded long ball (zero homers allowed). Obviously Harang will not be able to keep up his current pace for the duration of the year, but there is little reason to think that he shan’t once again be a viable starter in mixed leagues. At this point Harang should be viewed as nothing more than a solid depth starter in mixed leagues because he still has to prove he can effectively take the ball 30 times before you should think about going all in with him. Still, the early returns are positive and it’s very difficult to envision a scenario in which he shouldn’t be rostered in a 12 team mixed league.
By Ray Flowers