Scouting the Market: Rich HardenBy
There was a time when I’d have been greatly excited at the thought of Rich Harden in pinstripes. He absolutely dazzled earlier in his career, though injuries held him back considerably. He’s been a bit more healthful in the last two years, though he did miss significant time this year with a lat muscle injury. So far he’s thrown five starts with middling results, and the Yankees were in attendance for the latest one. It was an OK start, as he went six innings and allowed two runs, striking out seven and walking just two, against the Rays. They were also in attendance for his last start, when he held the Yankees themselves to two runs in 5.1 innings.
- It’s impossible to hear the name Rich Harden and not salivate over his ability to strike out batters. Even as he’s scrapped the devastating splitter in favor of a changeup, he’s still fanned his share of batters. This year he’s struck out more than a batter per inning in his five starts.
- Unadjusted Pitch f/x has him returning to the splitter this year. That’s a little scary from an injury perspective, but tantalizing from a stuff perspective. Baseball Info Solutions is still classifying it as a changeup, though, so I’m not sure what to make of it.
- SIERA, FanGraphs’ new ERA estimator, has liked him quite well in the past few years. The exception was last year, when he was apparently pitching hurt. That’s always a risk with Harden, but when he’s healthy he has the potential.
- He’s gotten a good amount of swings and misses this year. Not to the level he previously attained, but it’s still over 9 percent. The Yanks could definitely use another swing and miss arm.
- Remember the second half of 2008. That’s the year he got healthy with Oakland and then got traded to Chicago for the second half. In 12 starts there he absolutely obliterated the competition, striking out 89 in 71 innings and posting a 1.77 ERA.
- The Yanks couldn’t make any real plans with Harden, because of the injury risk. He might be healthy now, but who knows how long that will last?
- He’s had something of a home run problem this year, allowing six already in 29.1 innings. He also hasn’t gone a single start without allowing at least one homer. At least his only multi-homer game came on the road; allowing homers at the Coliseum is not a good sign.
- He’s always had a propensity to walk guys, which does not mesh well at all if he’s going to surrender long balls.
- Swinging a trade might be risky, in that it’d be tough to give up a pitcher near the majors. Rich Harden is not a guy you can sacrifice depth to acquire. They can’t really trade Adam Warren or Ivan Nova (not that they’d necessarily want to), because a Harden injury might mean the Yanks need those guys.
Until the day he retires, Rich Harden will remain a tantalizing name who frequently disappoints. He can go on an absolute tear, as we’ve seen on occasion in the past few years. But to give up anything of actual value for him is a folly, since he’s always one pitch away from a DL stint. Without receiving anything of value, Oakland has little motivation to deal him. I don’t see anything getting done. But if it’s 3:55 on Sunday and the Yanks haven’t done anything, and Beane is willing to take a B- prospect, well, even then that’s a stretch. But it’s about the only way I can see Harden in pinstripes this year.