Prior to this season I strongly contended that Aaron Harang was the most underrated starting pitcher in the National League. A little over a month into the season and my contention has grown. There’s a formula I like to use to determine underratedness:
Underrated = (Being On A Bad Team + Very Few, If Any, Nationally Televised Games)/(Never Posting Insane Conventional Stats, Like 20 Wins, That Would Force Somebody To Take Notice)
It’s a bit long but it gets the job done and sums up Harang. Some may argue, “But Eric… Harang does post great stats,” and I would agree; however, he has never won 20 games or posted a 2.40 ERA, or struck out 265 batters, which are numbers that would literally force Cy Young Award voters and more casual fans to take notice.
From 2005-2007, The Harangutan has made 32+ starts, pitched in 210+ innings, walked no more than 56, and increased his strikeouts from 163 to 218. His WHIP has ranged from 1.27 to 1.14 and his ERA has decreased from 3.83 to 3.73. His FIPs of 3.67-3.71 imply his ERA has mostly painted an accurate portrait.
This year, Harang has the following line:
8 GS, 3.09 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 1.10 WHIP, 55.1 IP, 48 H, 13 BB, 47 K; opponents are hitting .235/.281/.382 (.663 OPS); and his average Game Score is 59.
His record, you may ask? 1-5. One win and five losses despite posting the numbers above. Harang has given up more than three runs in just one start. If we remove that start he has a 2.55 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, and an average Game Score of 61.
How has this happened? Well, run support! The Reds have scored a measly 14 runs for Harang. On top of that, four of those runs came in his lone victory. In his other seven starts he has received 10 runs of support in 47.1 innings. Jorge de la Rosa got seven runs from his team just yesterday.
I probed the B-R Play Index to find pitchers in recent years who have experienced similar plight. Though this is likely specially selecting stats, the criteria used:
a) In the team’s first 40 games
b) From 1999-2008 (ten years)
c) Game Scores of 55+
d) No more than 3 ER
e) Resulting in a Loss or No-Decision
That criteria brought a five-way tie for first place, with each of the five recording 5 losses/no-decisions. The players were: Harang, Odalis Perez (2008), Roger Clemens (2005), Chris Carpenter (2006), and Jason Bergmann (2007).
If the Reds do not start picking up their ace he could very well fall into the 2007 Matt Cain category of extreme unluckiness.
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