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I can't count how many times I've said something akin to 'Aaron Harang is junk. He can't keep this up.' We're now 14 starts into the 2014 season for Harang, and while he hasn't kept up his early season pace he's undoubtedly been one of the best free agent adds in mixed leagues to this point of the campaign. Will he continue to be just that in the second half, a strong option on the bump, or will the long season eventually lead Harang to be the pitcher I believe him to be?
Harang has made 333 starts and 339 appearances over the course of 13 big league seasons. We know who he is. For his career he's the owner of a 4.23 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. He's also slightly better than a league average type in the K/9 column with a 7.33 mark. He's slightly better than average with his 2.76 BB/9 mark too, about a half batter below the league average since 2002 (3.26). He's slightly worse than the league average with a 1.16 HR/9 mark. He's slightly worse than the league average with a .304 BABIP. He's slightly better than the 70 percent league average left on base percentage at 73 percent. He's slightly worse than the league average with his 0.93 GB/FB and 20.9 percent line drive rate.
Add everything thing up and you've got a 115-121 hurler who is nothing but league average... over more than 2000 inning. So what has happened in 2014?
Let me be clear here. What Harang is doing doesn't make sense. This happens every year to a handful of players, there's no way to predict who will have the success though or how long it will last given that it shouldn't be happening in the first place. Let's just say it. I say he's been very fortunate, lucky if you will. You say it's skill. I respond – no way.
Harang, for all his success, is 5-5. He's under .500 for his career. From 2008-2013, that's six seasons, he won more than six games twice. He is not a “winner.” Never has been, never will be.
Harang has a 3.20 ERA. The last time he has an ERA that low... never. His career mark is a run higher and in 12 previous seasons he's never had an ERA under 3.60. You really think that's gonna change in year 13? His xFIP (3.84) and SIERA (3.84) hint that his ERA will likely rise, even though they would both be the best numbers he's posted since 2008.
Harang has an 8.43 K/9 mark this season. The last time he hit that mark was the only time in 12 seasons he's reached that level, and it was back in 2007. Moreover, check out his K/9 ratio over the last four years (2010-2013): 6.69 batters per nine. Just ask yourself an honest question removed from your belief in Harang. Suspend that for a moment. Is it legitimate to believe that a 36 year old hurler can add more than a batter an a half to his strikeout rate after a four year run with a mark under 6.70? Of course you know the answer to that.
Masked by the ERA and strikeouts is the fact that Harang is walking 3.42 batters per nine. That's worse than his career mark of 2.76. The 3.42 mark would also be his second worst mark in 12 years. Think about that for a brief moment. He's almost at historically awful levels despite his success overall.
Harang has a 1.27 WHIP, a solid number even if it's only a couple hundredths better than the league average. My question to you. How many times has he had a mark below that the last six years? The answer not once. From 2008 to 2013 he never had a mark better than 1.35 meaning he wasn't even league average one time in six years. Not once. His mark from 2008-13 was 1.41. That's terrible.
One big key to his success to this point is the lack of the big fly. Harang has allowed four homers in 14 starts leading to a HR/9 mark of 0.43. An obvious problem with that – it's one third his career mark of 1.16. One third. Over the past eight years the mark has been under 1.05 once. Realize if his current rate doubles he would still be below that mark. Remember the xFIP mark of 3.84 from above? His ERA will rise when the ball starts finding the seats, and it will. Harang has a HR/F ratio of 10.3 for his career, a completely league average level. This year that number is 4.2 percent. He's at forty percent of his normal. You think that's gonna continue?
Harang has a .302 BABIP this season. Two points off his career mark. Nothing has changed – he's still average.
Harang has a 73.2 percent left on base rate. That's two tenths off his career mark. Nothing has changed – he's still average.
Harang has a 0.88 GB/FB ratio. That's five hundredths off his career mark. Nothing has changed – he's still average.
PLAYING TIME CONSIDERATIONS
The Braves want to use Alex Wood as a starter. He's been sent back down to the minors to stretch his arm out, and they plan is for him to start on June 28th in a double-header. The Braves are also said to be considering dealing an arm to open up a long-term spot for Wood in the rotation. That likely means Harang or Gavin Floyd will be dealt. Can't think any team is going to be beating down the Braves door to add either vet, but even if dealt both Floyd and Harang should remain in the starting rotation.
Aaron Harang is old. He's pitching as well as he ever has. In many respects he's pitching better than he ever has... as a 36 year old in his 13th big league season. The fact is that he's simply not this talented and he is not going to keep up his current pace. No way. He's not turning the clock back eight years. The guy was left for dead after last seasons 5.40 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 26 starts and you should be very nervous if you're counting on Harang. Regression gives no quarter. When it hits, it hits hard.
10 team lg: You can spot start him, use him as a streamer, but even with his success this season he's not a great option in a league this shallow.
12 team lg: A worthy starter for now. Gulp. Not likely to last. Can't trade him for the value the numbers say you should be able to, so you'll likely best served to hold him until the slump hits and then move on, but if you can sell him for .90 cents on the dollar you should do it. Immediately.
15 team lg: A great depth starter in a league this deep. The added boost in the K department is huge if he can hold on to it. Don't bet on that happening though.
NL-only: Might as well ride him until the wheels fall off. It's not likely someone would trade you a better arm that is struggling a bit since everyone should be wary of a Harang pull back.