Harang Heads Home to San Diego

While it’s certainly not the biggest news coming out of San Diego this weekend, the Padres are close to signing free agent right-hander Aaron Harang to a one-year deal. The San Diego native and San Diego State University alumnus is expected to earn about $3 million in 2011.

The 32-year-old was quietly one of the better pitchers in the National League from 2005-2007, averaging about 226 innings, a 3.78 expected FIP (xFIP) and 4.9 Wins Above Replacement per season. Harang remained relatively effective in 2008 and 2009, with a collective 7.51 K/9, 2.42 BB/9 and a 4.12 xFIP. But he missed a month with a right forearm strain in ’08, limiting him to 184.1 innings pitched, and an appendectomy that shelved him at the end of the ’09 season brought his inning total down to 162.1.

In 2010, the 6-foot-7, 260 pound behemoth turned in his worst season in the majors since he was just breaking in with the A’s back in 2002 and 2003. With a lower back injury taking him out of action for two months, Harang tossed just 111.2 innings. His 4.62 xFIP wasn’t as ghastly as his actual 5.32 ERA — Harang’s .348 BABIP was nearly 30 points above his career average, and his 69.4% rate of stranding runners was 3-4 percentage points below normal — but didn’t have much to boast about regardless.

Harang’s swinging strike rate fell for a fifth straight season, down to 8.1% (8.5% MLB average). And his control, while not terrible, wasn’t as good as usual. He typically pounds the strike zone, putting many more pitches over the plate than most hurlers. That wasn’t the case in 2010. Here are Harang’s Zone% figures over the past three years, relative to the big league average during each season.

Harang hasn’t lost velocity on his fastball, but the whiff and strike rates on his heater have gradually declined. According to Pitch F/X data from TexasLeaguers.com, Harang’s fastball got a whiff 7.2% of the time in 2008, 6.9% in 2009 and 5.1% in 2010 (5-6% MLB average). The pitch was thrown for a strike 67.2% in ’08, 66.8% in ’09 and 63.8% this past year (60-64% MLB average). On a per-pitch basis, that fastball got smoked: Harang’s gas was about a run below average per 100 pitches thrown.

With fewer whiffs and more out-of-zone pitches, Harang had 6.61 K/9 and 3.06 BB/9. As an extreme fly ball pitcher (36.8 GB% in 2010, 37.9% career) who gives up lots of long balls (1.29 HR/9 last year, 1.22 HR/9 career), Harang needs more than so-so control and a below-average K rate to succeed as a starter.

So, a banged-up Harang clearly hasn’t been the same caliber of pitcher he was a few years back. But, while these trends are discouraging, this deal should actually work out quite nicely for both Harang and the Padres.

He doesn’t have to be anywhere near that 2005-2007 model to be worth his salary, even if the contract ends up including incentives. And without question, moving to PETCO Park will help his cause: according to StatCorner, PETCO decreased offense for lefties by 10 percent this past season, and eight percent for righties. Lefty HR production was sapped by 41 percent, and righty taters were tamed by five percent. The fly ball pitcher will see some long drives die at the warning track, and he will be backed by a rangy outfield including Will Venable, Cameron Maybin and Ryan Ludwick.

Durability concerns and declining peripherals limited Harang’s market, but it’s entirely possible that he rebounds to the 2.5-3 win level if healthy. There are no guarantees here, but San Diego added a starter who should provide a nice return on investment.



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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.


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Mike Savino
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Mike Savino
5 years 5 months ago

And these are the reasons we’re just trusting the Jedi with the Adrian Gonzalez deal. He has yet to make a move where I’m like, “dude, why?”

phoenix
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phoenix
5 years 5 months ago

had they not traded adrian gonzalez, could the padres have competed this year? and if they could have, would that have been worth keeping gonzalez?

Chris
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5 years 5 months ago

Im glad to see someone sign Harang i always liked him.

D4P
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D4P
5 years 5 months ago

Dodgers give $3.25 million to Rod Barajas.

Padres give $3 million to Aaron Harang.

I laugh* at Ned Colletti.

*out loud.

jirish
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jirish
5 years 5 months ago

I like this move for the Padres, Harang is a fly ball pitcher, and that plays well in Petco, as well as the Giants and Dodgers home stadiums in their division.

Balsley is a very good and underrated pitching coach-he get guys throwing strikes-and Bud Black will also be helpful in helping Harang rebuild his career.

If it doesn’t turn out, it’s 3mil. That’s a nothing contract for an experienced starting pitcher.

Joe
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Joe
5 years 5 months ago

Yeah – not a terrible move…. Harang put up 0.9WAR last year in his worst season. Seems like a good chance he puts up 1 WAR or better ( at least 4.5-5mil of value). The park will help him too (even though it is adjusted in WAR, a flyball pitcher like Harang may get more gain than the standard adjustment)

Must be another sign of the serious salary inflation that we are in for this winter… oh wait.

Mark
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5 years 5 months ago

Hard for any 1/3 deal to hurt any MLB team, although the Padres might be the one with the current sale and ownership change still going through.

I think he’ll see a nice increase in strand rate as well, at least over the averages he saw in Cin. Much better pen in SD. Ballpark will certainly help as well.

Jesse011
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Jesse011
5 years 5 months ago

Where are the Yankees when a good, cheap pitcher like this comes along? If healthy he would be a nice #3 or 4 in a playoff series

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
5 years 5 months ago

Adam Harang for $3M/y?

Where were the cardinals on this one? For that matter, where was everyone on this one?

He’s probably not the 200 IP he was for 3 straight seasons, but he is likely a decent pitcher for 150-180 Inn. Perhaps his decreasing K-rate has teams making assumptions about the “end is near”, but for 3M bucks and one season?

Brad Penny got 7M/y, and Westbrook ~17/2y.

Basically, almost every team could use Harang in the rotation for 3M. Was it the back injury that caused teams not to make a better offer? Or did Harang sign with SD to play at home?

Mark
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

It’s a combination of Harang being from SD and the ballpark/defense/bullpen already in place.

Hoyer seems more willing than KT to bring in legit SP’s looking to only stay a year in order to build up their value in the marketplace once again.

It worked relatively well for Garland last season and I’d expect the same type of results for Harang.

DB Cooper
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DB Cooper
5 years 5 months ago

The Reds bullpen wasn’t bad the past two years, and they certainly didn’t cause Harang’s problems. The Padres’ pen is obviously elite, but that stops being the case if Bell’s gone.

david
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david
5 years 5 months ago

Two details if reporting in San Diego is to be believed…
1) It wound up being $3.5M for 2011 with a 500K buyout on the mutual $5M option for 2012, so it will be booked as $4M for payroll accounting purposes.

2) Harang’s wife is having twins next month and apparently his interest in being at home (and in that home ballpark of course) throughout the season trumped several bigger offers.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
5 years 5 months ago

If #2 is true, then good for Harang. MLB and fatherhood rarely work in the same direction.

On the other hand, he gets to live in San Diego. Not the toughest choice in the world.

Mark
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

One small thing to point out-the Padres new ownership doesn’t add incentives to contracts as a rule. Moorad is pretty strict on that point actually and it seems to be one of the reasons that Harang ended up coming in for 3M instead of Chris Young on a 1M+ incentives deal.

gmoney
Member
gmoney
5 years 5 months ago

Gotta like it. $3million for Harang coming off a bad luck year in a band box vs $8million for 2 years for Correia in Pittsburgh

brentgriffin
Member
brentgriffin
5 years 2 months ago

Just another pitcher Dusty Baker has killed. Happy Wood is back in Chicago, hope that Harang can have some success in San Diego, and I hear Prior signed a minor league deal…I believe with the Yankees.

Bryce Verona
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4 years 7 months ago

??

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