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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Kudos to Aaron Harang

Just a small post to recognize the wonderful start of Aaron Harang's 2014 season.  I didn't get to profile him in my Braves/Reds preview because he's not throwing in this series.  But right now, Harang is leading all NL starters in ERA at 0.85.  I thought I'd do a quick retrospective.

When I started this blog in 2006, Harang was the Reds' #1 stud pitcher.  He was joined that season by a surprisingly good Bronson Arroyo, and they anchored the Reds' staff for 2006 and 2007.  We all know what happened in 2008.  But I prefer to remember his run from 2005-2007, when he averaged just under 5 WAR per season.  

When Harang was at his best, he was always a fly ball pitcher.  But he had a good strikeout rate, and an extremely low walk rate, which helped keep the home runs he allowed from hurting him.  While his 3.7ish ERAs don't look particularly impressive now, one has to remember that the scoring environment in 2006 was much different than it is now.  In 2006, the NL average ERA was 4.49.  By 2013, on the other hand, it fell all the way to 3.73.  So, in today's run environment, he would be something much closer to a 3.00 ERA pitcher at his peak.

What's different about Harang's approach this year?  Ben Lindbergh doesn't think he's doing anything differently than he did for Cleveland last year from a scouting basis.  Certainly, his peripherals don't suggest that his 0.85 ERA is sustainable.  But, in his first 5 starts, Harang has seen his strikeout rate, and his swinging strike rate, soar to levels better than even his best years with Cincinnati.  He has also seen his walk rate jump up, and his ground ball rate drop, of course.  Given all of that, it's hard to expect that his end of season numbers will be any better than league average.  

But I'm going to hope he can keep being effective all season.  Harang was a terrific Red, and I will always root for him.