One Night Only: Hot Game Previews for April 5th

Padre starter Aaron Harang approves of his new surroundings.

San Diego at San Francisco | 6:35pm ET
Starting Pitchers
Giants: Madison Bumgarner
165.0 IP, 5.84 K/9, 2.78 BB/9, 3.97 FIP, 106 ERA+ (ZiPS)

Padres: Aaron Harang
144.0 IP, 6.88 K/9, 2.44 BB/9, 3.99 FIP, 87 ERA+ (ZiPS)

Though you might not remember it, Aaron Harang has been good before. He’s compiled a 23.3 WAR over his career. He’s posted a five-win season as recently as 2007. He has a nickname, The Harangutan, capable of turning any manner of frown upside-down.

The last three years, however, haven’t been particularly excellent for Harang. Owing to a combination of inflated batted-ball numbers and generally weaker peripherals, Harang has a posted a 4.71 ERA and 18-38 record — numbers which, even if they’re not the product of Harang’s pitching exclusively, are at least bad cosmetically.

As you might know, Harang has attributed at least some of his trouble to a relief appearance in May of 2008. It was during that appearance that he threw 63 pitches in an extra-inning game — this just three days after a 103-pitch start. The relief appearance itself went fine (4.0 IP, 15 TBF, 9 K, 1 BB, 2 GB on 4 batted balls), but Harang pitched poorly thereafter.

All told, here was his season line through the end of that relief appearance: 78.2 IP, 72 K, 19 BB, 10 HR (ca. 3.75 FIP). And from that point till the end of the 2008 season: 105.2 IP, 81 K, 31 BB, 25 HR (ca. 5.62 FIP). His lack of success, of course, doesn’t prove incontrovertibly that overuse was to blame. That he spent a month on the DL with a forearm thing later in the same season, however, suggests that something was possibly amiss.

Now, however, Harang has fled the occasionally dangerous stewardship of Dusty Baker and sought refuge in the welcoming — and probably really tan — arms of his native San Diego. The best-case scenario is that he regains his previous stuff somehow (which isn’t inconceivable, considering he’s never topped a 4.50 xFIP even at his worst), while the worst case (provided he stays healthy) is his peripherals stay the same but his ERA benefits from Petco’s spacious confines.

Seattle at Texas | 8:05pm ET
Starting Pitchers
Mariners: Michael Pineda
107.0 IP, 6.98 K/9, 3.20 BB/9, 4.05 FIP, 99 ERA+ (ZiPS)

Rangers: Alexi Ogando
64.3 IP, 9.38 K/9, 4.34 BB/9, 3.66 FIP, 147 ERA+ (ZiPS)

Everything I said about Ogando yesterday (that is, when I thought he’d be starting) holds true for today. In this one case — unlike many others — I’m a man of my word.

Fortunately, some of what we’ve said about Ogando can be recycled for young Michael Pineda. Like Ogando, Pineda will be making his first major league start and, also like Ogando, Pineda’s changeup — and, hence, his ability to effectively retire lefties — possibly isn’t a major league pitch. Nonetheless, the minor league numbers (139.1 IP, 9.9 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 0.6 HR between Double- and Triple-A in 2010) are impressive and debuts almost always make for compelling TV.

Los Angeles Nationals at Colorado | 8:40pm ET
Starting Pitchers
Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw
193.7 IP, 9.43 K/9, 4.00 BB/9, 3.12 FIP, 131 ERA+ (ZiPS)

Rockies: Jhoulys Chacin
146.7 IP, 8.22 K/9, 4.66 BB/9, 4.05 FIP, 119 ERA+ (ZiPS)

It’s one of life’s great pleasures — right up there with sweet water slides and finding a parking spot close to the restaurant — to watch a player soon after reading white-hot analysis about him (i.e. that same player) on FanGraphs.

Tonight, we have the opportunity to do that very thing, as Daves Cameron and Allen both recently submitted their thoughts on Clayton Kershaw’s slider, which the lefty used to good effect on Opening Day en route to striking out nine, walking just one, and inducing more ground balls (nine) than other kinds of balls (eight) in seven innings. Allen’s piece is a graphical PitchFx analysis; Cameron’s, a more general — but no less learned — reflection on Kershaw’s start.

Furthermore, we can take some even more pleasure in the fact that the URL for Mr. Allen’s piece ends with the term “kershaws-har-slider.” “What’s a ‘har slider’?” you’re maybe wondering. To which I reply: “You don’t know? Oh, sorry. I thought you were a baseball fan.”

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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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Michael Barr

somewhere, Aaron Harang’s mother is silently weeping.


I think she’s laughing all the way to the bank, actually.