Valuing the Harangutan

Word is Aaron Harang has cleared waivers, meaning he can be traded to any team. Any takers? Is that the sound of crickets chirping that I hear? It feels a little weird that no clubs are interested in the Harangutan, a pitcher who averaged 5 WAR per season from ’05-’07. Let’s look closer and see if the apathy is deserved.

Harang was a shell of his normal self last year, and even spent time on the DL with forearm tightness. His struggles have been well chronicled, with the fault landing on Dusty Baker, every saber-minded baseball fan’s favorite punching bag. The censure may be well deserved. Rewinding a bit, on May 22nd, Harang took his start on normal rest. On May 25th, Baker called upon Harang and his resilient arm into a tie game in the 13th inning. Harang threw 63 pitches over 4 shutout innings in extra innings and then proceeded to make his next start on the 29th. He crumpled under the load, pitching terribly until he hit the DL on July 9th. Upon returning from the DL, he eventually reverted back to his normal self for his last 8 starts.

This season, Harang has shown improvement, but hasn’t recaptured ace status. He has increased his K/9 rate from 7.5 to 8. His command has rebounded too, with a 3.5 K/BB ratio. The problem is he’s still afflicted with gopheritis. His 1.3 HR/9 rate is a step up over his 1.7 rate from last year, but it’s still not up to snuff. Peculiarly enough, he’s allowing more homers away from the Great American Bandbox than in it.

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Not only has Harang taken a beating with the homers, he’s also allowed a 24% line drive rate which has bloated his BABIP to .347. Depending on what side you fall on in the tRA/FIP debate, you could attribute these numbers to poor luck. His xFIP is a healthy 3.85, which is right in line with the rest of his career and a lot better than his current ERA of 4.43. His tRA is 4.74, scaled to ERA that would be about 4.35. His regressed tRA (tRA*) is just .01 higher, suggesting Harang isn’t out of the woods yet. I’ll let smarter folk than I argue the merits of xFIP over tRA and vice versa, I just refer to both to illustrate that there’s some uncertainty with Harang. That half a run difference, over 180-200 innings, is a little over a win, if you feel these numbers foreshadow Harang’s performance going forward.

His contract calls for $12.5M next season, and if he’s traded, Harang’s $12.75M club option for 2011 with a $2M buyout becomes a $14M mutual option. If you believe that Harang could be a 3.5 win pitcher or better with a simple change of scenery, then he has surplus value. If you believe that his best days are behind him and he’s more of a 2.5 WAR pitcher going forward, then his surplus value is zilch. Teams also might see the decline in performance, Dusty finagling and the high mileage on Harang’s arm and be totally scared off.

When Harang signed his 4-year, $36.5 million extension, it looked like a sweetheart of a deal. He was one of the best and most unheralded pitchers in the game. In hindsight, the deal still looks quite solid for the Reds, but it’s not the huge bargain that it originally appeared to be, which is precisely why Reds’ GM Walt Jocketty is having such a difficult time trying to move it.




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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.


13 Responses to “Valuing the Harangutan”

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  1. Terry says:

    I think Harang is still an above average starting pitcher.

    His peripherals look good. But they look better than one would think by watching him pitch this season. Harang might be a guy who really illustrates that there might be something meaningful in the disparity between what FIP and tRA are telling us about him.

    As an aside, those seeking to fight about xFIP over tRA might do well to take up the battle here:

    http://zonazapper.mybrute.com

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    • don says:

      The Reds have also put some unspectacular defenses behind him over the last few years. I don’t know what to make of him *now*, but for his career that probably part of why his ERA seems a little on the high side.

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  2. Steve C says:

    Out of the teams I can think of that are in contention that play in a pitchers park (which should help with the long ball problem the only one I can think of is Detroit.

    Boston, Arlington, Coors, NYS, and Chicago would all be bad locations for a pitcher like that. I could see him landing in Seattle if they were in the hunt, but it appears as though their plan is to build for the future (2-3 seasons) not next season. The outfield defense they through out there on a regular basis would help the BABIP.

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    • Michael says:

      Seattle’s a great location for him, as he’s the strikeout/HR allowing type of guy and, as mentioned, could use the expanse of a pitcher’s park to help him out. The question would be the return the Reds would want. I’d think they’d take a couple of AA midlevels for Harang, maybe even one midlevel, almost big-league ready guy and one lottery ticket for Harang.

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    • Davidceisen says:

      The Dodgers could be a good fit as a 4th or 5th starter.

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  3. big baby says:

    “That half a run difference is a pretty big Motzah ball hanging out there.”

    What does that even mean? Even over looking the misspelling of Matzah, I just… no clue what that means.

    And I’ve been hoping the Mets would try to get in on Harang to try and stabilize the rotation and put some quality innings at the top of it, while hoping that he might get back into his old groove.

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  4. Tom B says:

    the crickets probably has a lot to do with his in-your-face policy regarding his use of supplements and andro
    no one wants that media nightmare, especially on a contending team

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  5. Rick says:

    Of course, production is what wins ballgames, not surplus value. If a team needs to add a starter for the stretch run and can afford his salary (Yankees, Dodgers), Harang would be a reasonable add. Bargains are great, but on field production wins baseball games.

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  6. halothunder says:

    Nice to see someone with the same insight on “Harang the Horse,” I call him.

    The Angels are his best fit with their lineup support pitcher friendly confines. Check out the thread I’ve opened with “Aaron Harang” by the Angels fan forum message board at angelsbaseball.com.

    I haven’t blogged it yet under halothunder.mlblogs.com, but all my arguments within the thread support toward composing one. Your blog adds also, thank you!

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