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Harden and McCarthy: Returning From DL

This past weekend, two pitchers for the A’s, Rich Harden and Brandon McCarthy, returned to the team after stints on the DL. Here is a look at how each pitcher performed and what to expect from them over the rest of the season.

Rich Harden (9.4% ESPN, 11% Yahoo) – Rich made his 2011 debut on Saturday by striking out 6 and not walking anyone in 6 IP.

The two things we can take away from the one start is that he is back pitching, for now, and that his fastball velocity is down.

It seems like Rich lives on the DL and it was that way in 2006 to 2007 where he managed to start 13 total games. Over the last 3 seasons, he has managed to average starting 23 games a season, or just over half a season. Since he has returned at the half way point of the 2011 season, he just may be available for a run until the end of the season. Maybe.

Looking at fastball speeds, which stabilize rather quickly, the 29 year old averaged 90.8 MPH in his first start. His career average currently stands at 92.8 and in 2010 was the only season he averaged less than 92 MPH (90.5). Also, from 2005 to 2007, Rich had an effective change which was 8 to 9 MPH slower than his fastball, but in 2011 the difference is closer to 7 MPH.

Since his fastball and change rates are similar this season to last season, he may expect to have similar Swinging Strike % and K/9. In 2010 his SwStr% was at career low of 7.7% (10.5% was his previous low) and his K/9 was at 7.3, also a career low. The K numbers aren’t that bad, but when added to a BB/9 of 6.1, the results can be disastrous as seen by ERA/FIP/xFIP line of 5.58/6.31/5.67.

In my opinion, Rich’s value depends on his ability to stay healthy, but probably more importantly is keeping his walk rate down. Previously, he could away with having a high walk rate since his K/9 was higher. Unless he keeps low walk rate (2 to 3 BB/9), he will have little value even if healthy.

Brandon McCarthy (2.7% ESPN, 5% Yahoo) – Brandon made his return from the DL on Monday by getting the win and going 6 2/3 innings with 5 K and 2 BB. He seemed to be back after missing 41 days with a shoulder injury with a fastball that averaged just under 90 MPH.

Brandon was having a decent season before the injury even though it was not represented in his 1-5 Win-Loss record. He has a decent ERA/FIP/xFIP line of 3.33/2.63/3.44 to go along with a 3.5K/BB and WHIP of 1.19. Each of these stats have been driven by Brandon’s low walk rate of 1.5 BB/9. The walk rate is less than half of his career average of 3.1 BB/9.

In my opinion, Brandon could be usefully addition, but I would only use him at home in the spacious stadium in Oakland or against other weak offensive teams. The key to his future value, will be if he can continue to keep the low walk rate over the rest of the season.