Aaron Harang: New Place, Same Face

The Dodgers kicked off their activities at the Winter Meetings by scooping up another veteran pitcher for their rotation. This time, it was another former NL Central tosser, as Los Angeles signed Aaron Harang to a two-year contract on Monday. The terms for the 33-year-old right-hander have not been released yet, but it is thought that the deal will be backloaded — similar to Chris Capuano‘s contract, which was signed last week.

Aaron Harang was once an ace pitcher for the Reds — a particularly impressive feat given the constricting outfield of Great American Ballpark — but he has been in a steep decline since the 2008 season. Perhaps not coincidentally, the 2008 season featured a stretch of 239 pitches in eight days for Harang, largely thanks to Dusty Baker calling on him for an extended long relief appearance in an extra inning game. From 2008 to 2010, Harang never posted an ERA below 4.20 after three straight years under 3.90; Harang does indeed blame the appearance for his physical struggles over those three seasons.

Harang must have been particularly excited to leave Cincinnati, and in San Diego he found a new manager, a new park, a new division of opponents and a shiny new 3.64 ERA in 170.2 innings pitched. Harang shaved 1.7 runs off his ERA from his final season in Cincinnati, but did anything actually change? San Diego is well known as a place where well-hit balls go to die, a veritable oasis for pitchers of any quality in which the ERA creates the perfect mirage.

A few things changed:

Others, not so much:

Between the league-wide decline in offense, the shift from Cincinnati to the cavernous outfield of Petco Park, and the lower quality of hitters in the NL West compared to the NL Central, most of the difference in Harang’s 2010 and 2011 home run rate and BABIP can be attributed to environment, not a direct change in skill. Throw in the Padres’ top-five rank in defensive efficiency (both raw and park adjusted) and it’s difficult to ascribe Harang’s 2011 performance to much else than his friendlier confines. A 105 ERA- — a below average mark — with a 3.64 ERA speaks volumes to this fact.

Harang’s virtually unchanged strikeout and walk numbers only reinforce this idea that the Dodgers will be getting the same pitcher who flamed out in Cincinnati. This doesn’t necessarily mean Harang is a guaranteed bust in Los Angeles by any means, though. Chavez Ravine carries many of the same advantages of playing in San Diego, although not quite to such extremes. The Dodgers only really want Harang to be their fourth or fifth starter, and that’s the kind of pitcher they look to get in Harang. The terms of the deal are yet unknown — all we know is that the total dollar amount is sure to exceed $5 million (the price of his declined player option with San Diego). At a rate similar to Chris Capuano’s contract — $5 million average annual value — Harang is a fine if uninspiring addition on a thin free agent market. If the numbers reach into $15 million or $20 million over the contract’s lifetime, however, the Dodgers will be left with little more than a mirage on their payroll for the next two seasons.

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18 Responses to “Aaron Harang: New Place, Same Face”

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  1. bawfuls says:

    it is when it’s once again back-loaded like all the other 2-3 year deals NedCo has given ageing veterans lately. The 2013 team will be hamstrung paying guys like Harang $8M or so.

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    • Xeifrank says:

      You need to look at the totality of the deal. It very well could be that he is a bargain the first year and not a bargain the second year and it all evens out. And of course not knowing the details, we have no way of knowing yet. But when they do come out, please remember to take the totality of the contract in to account.

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  2. NM says:

    Meh. Not sure an aging starting pitcher who hasn’t been worth more than a 1 WAR in 3 years is worth a multi-year deal. Best case scenario is they’ll get what they pay for, I suppose.

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  3. Scout Finch says:

    Love the title. He has one heck of a face.

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  4. mister_rob says:

    Maybe I dont follow west coast baseball enough, but with Kershaw, bills, lilly, capuano, and harang…..does this mean DeLaRosa is kicked out of the rotation?
    Was he hurt or something? Why would you give Harang 5 or 6m/yr when you have a guy who at 22 was decent and makes 400k?

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    • Matt says:

      He had Tommy John surgery.

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      • mattsd says:

        But Eovaldi didn’t.

        And with all of these 2 year deals, there won’t be a natural fit for anyone for a while.

        Yes, there will be injuries, and preparing for that is a good thing. But depth can be cheap, and when you are paying more than 10 times the league minimum for guys who could be replaced by in-house options, we really have to wonder if there is any plan in place at all.

        That seems to be the story for much of Ned’s time in LA. Lots of signings that maybe make at least some sense in a vacuum, but in the bigger picture, make no sense at all.

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  5. Luke says:

    Padres runs when Aaron Harang starts in 2011 – 4.86 per game avg.
    Padres runs when Aaron Harang didn’t start in 2011 – 3.4 per game avg.

    Very happy that we’ll be facing Harang next year and not relying on him. Petco made him a just about acceptable pitcher and his W-L record would have been a lot worse if it were not for the fact that for some unknown reason the Padres bats exploded when he was on the mound. One of the worst offences in baseball scored more than 9 runs for him on 5 occasions. The fact he got an average of almost 5 runs a game (4.86) from a team that scored an average of just 3.4 runs in games he didn’t start is why I thank him for his service, but I’m glad he won’t be on the 2012 roster.

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  6. Cliff says:

    Dusty Baker’s smart. Sarcasm font or whatever,fuck you.

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  7. YazInLeft8 says:

    i had fun looking at his stats from the past few years. as a kid (and I am 16, so that isn’t so far in the past) i always pictured him as a horrific pitcher. I guess, at least from 2008 on, I was generally right?

    I am calling a total flameout here.

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  8. Jared says:

    If the Dodgers didn’t have 3 talented pitchers who could contribute in 2012 or 2013 (Eovaldi, Webster, De la Rosa) then this deal might make sense. But they do, so it doesn’t.

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  9. Jack Thomas says:

    4.70 ERA/1.65 WHIP in 11 games started away from Petco nets Harang $12M for 2 yrs?
    Dodgers signed FAs: Capuano ($10M 2 yrs), Jerry Hairston, Mark Ellis, Adam Kennedy & R/S Juan Rivera. They seem to sewing up the market utility players.
    It was a big plus for Texas when bankruptcy took Tom Hicks out of the picture. Hopefully, the same can happend for Dodgers.

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  10. Blue says:

    It’s the worst of the 2 year deals for marginal guys so far this year.

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  11. Mike says:

    Anyone else think Harang looks just like Droopy the cartoon dog?

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  12. It’s Los Angeles. He may get a different face after all.

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