Scouting the Market: Rich Harden

Two Quick Thoughts: Kuroda & Handedness
Mailbag: Hughes, Parraz, Kershaw, Banuelos

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.

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

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Two Quick Thoughts: Kuroda & Handedness
Mailbag: Hughes, Parraz, Kershaw, Banuelos
  • Hester Prynne

    So as insurance for Bartolo and Freddy we acquire Rich Harden? Doesn’t make no sense.

    • Jorge

      Makes very good sense, actually, as long as he can stay healthy between now and October. We’re not asking him to stay healthy for the next three seasons. I’ll take my chances on that small a stretch.

      Agreed that a B- prospect would make sense here.

    • Jim S

      You’re right, it doesn’t make no sense.

      Having 3 pitchers with a 50% chance of staying healthy > having 2 pitchers with a 50% chance of staying healthy.

  • http://www.ps3tf2.co.nr/ Double-J

    @Joe – Any input on why Harden scrapped the splitter for the change?

    • zs190

      Changed the repertoire because teams and Harden felt that the old one was putting too much stress on his arm and he can’t stay healthy with it.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      He scrapped it years ago, because the splitter was causing him arm problems.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Apparently, scrapping the splitter for the change lowered his annual injury likelihood from 99% to 87%.

        So, success!

  • Jorge

    The Wang comment disappeared, having my above reply make no sense whatsoever. It was all probably off-topic to begin with, although pinch-running for Harden wouldn’t be bad either. :)

  • TJ

    I keep hearing about how we need another starter and I disagree. I would keep Nova and let him pitch and develop the Killer Bs. In my opinion if we have kids that can pitch in triple A, then they can pitch as 5th starters in the bigs. I think the organization tends to bring them along too slowly. Bring ‘em up and lets see what they have. Everyone continues to knock Garcia and Colon. I don not get this as Garcia’s ERA is under 4, and Colon looks just fine. There are about 60 Games left. That means about 10-12 starts each for a five man rotation. A big name isn’t going to come over and win 10 straight games. I understand the problem may be the playoffs, but if anything playoff performances are unpredictable and we still have CC, Colon, AJ, Garcia, Hughes, Nova, and potentially a kid from AAA that can emerge. That’s really quite a bit. I don’t think adding one starter is going to make or break anything to be honest. I would certainly not give up prospects in the top five, unless the Yanks are overhyping one or all of them for that purpose. Montero is mentioned so often and he still sits at AAA and yet his name comes up constantly, makes me wonder why he’s not untouchable. I think if the Yanks do trade some or any of the well hyped killer B’s, it will be for Ubaldo. Other than him I would stand pat or try and pick someone up on the cheap and retain the young arms. My guess is they will opt for the latter. That will not turn the Yanks into the ’98 team and most likely they will draw Texas in round one and then face Boston in the ALCS. It will be fun regardless of who they pick up, and the outcome might be the same.

    • Kiersten

      At least for me, I think we need pitching for October. I’m about 99.9% sure the Yankees are going to make the playoffs, whether that’s as the division winner or the wild card I don’t really care. I think the Yankees can be successful with their current rotation, but I don’t feel super confident against the Red Sox, Giants or Phillies. Not to say I think they can’t beat those teams, they definitely can, but I think they’d have a much better chance with another solid/good/great starter.
      And this is the Yankees, making it to the ALCS or World Series is nice, but the goal is to win.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        I think the Yankees don’t need another starter, but it would be a nice upgrade/welcome luxury/beneficial insurance policy.

        Hence, I’m interested in acquiring another starter as long as the price is not significant (i.e., a true stud prospect). If we can get Kuroda/Harden/Bedard/etc. for a D.J. Mitchell and stuff, something of that ilk, sure. Giving multiple good prospects for Ubaldo/Wandy/etc. is something I’m growing less enthusiastic about.

        • Kiersten

          Agreed with your first statement and agreed about Kuroda etc. I wouldn’t give up anything significant for those guys. But I still think Ubaldo would be worth it since he would be our No. 2 through at least 2013 and that will be huge for next year and the year after. Especially with the uncertainty surrounding Hughes and A.J. being A.J.

          Like I’ve said before, it would hurt to give up those guys for Ubaldo but my opinion is that it would be worth it. I can definitely understand why people disagree though.

        • Ted Nelson

          I would look at trade value looking at a decision tree and discounted future performance (borrowing from discounted cash flows). All the gut and feelings talk about trades reminds me of the trolls who come on and say that stats are for nerds. For people who believe so ardently in stats to measure performance, it shocks me to see how many people on this site ignore them when it comes to trade value. There’s a fairly scientific way of looking at this, yet people ignore it.

        • David, Jr.

          I don’t see a thing wrong with Erik Bedard. In 15 starts he has a 3.00 ERA, a 8.5 K/9, a 2.6 BB/9, a 123 ERA+. Sure, he is a little goofy and injury prone, but this one could bring a real reward in exchange for presumably a moderate risk.

          • Ted Nelson

            Who knows, but with guys like Bedard and Kuroda demand could drive up the price. There are only a few good starters reportedly on the market, and several big market teams reportedly interested in getting a starter.

      • JAG

        My only problem is I just don’t see who that starter is going to be. While I think trading for Kuroda, Harden, or many of a lot of other guys might improve the team slightly, none of them are true #2 reliable, effective pitchers in a vacuum and none of them will make an enormous difference to me. I’m fine with picking up a starter to take some of the load off Colon and Garcia and hopefully keep them effective for the playoffs (and get the Yankees into the playoffs of course), but I don’t think there’s a starter out there who can be had at a reasonable price who is going to step up and go toe-to-toe with Cain, Lester, and Lee and be a favorite or a push.

      • Ted Nelson

        I wouldn’t say need. Want. Our pitchers *might* get hurt, so we *might* need another one *once* we make the playoffs sounds a lot more like a want than need to me.

        I think somewhere in his comment TJ is getting at trade value: he says to either trade for a true top-of-the-rotation guy or get a lesser guy on the cheap (which contradicts some other points… but anyway…). I would like an upgrade, sure, but that’s half the equation. The other half is what is given up.

        • Kiersten

          I just keep thinking back to last year when we all thought we didn’t need Cliff Lee cause we had a solid rotation. Then Pettitte got hurt and Hughes sucked and Javy sucked and you know. And we definitely could have used another pitcher. Especially cause another pitcher would have meant A.J. didn’t have to start Game 4 of the ALCS. Whether or not we would have won the series we’ll never know, but I think it would have increased the chances a lot.

          • Ted Nelson

            I don’t think last year’s Yankee experience should count any more than any other season for any other team. I would look at the total picture. (You’re not going to play Ramiro Pena over A-Rod just cause Pena is coming off a 2-5 day and A-Rod is coming off an 0-5 day…) The whole picture probably agrees with you that an upgrade would increase their chances of winning a playoff series, but probably not that every starter will fall apart the way Javy did last season.

            And there’s also the trade cost. Getting Cliff Lee and watching him self-destruct against the Giants like he did would have been nice… but paying out Montero + for 1/2 a season of Lee would not have been nice.

            As I say to TSJC above, I would look at a decision tree to determine a player’s future value (assign probabilities to future outcomes based on historical evidence) and then match the discounted future value of each player on both sides of the deal’s future performance up. Baseball players are investments… just like stocks or bonds or whatever else. A team is a portfolio of investments.

    • Ted Nelson

      I think you make some good points, but I disagree about bringing pitchers along too slowly. The Yankees are generally known for the opposite: see Hughes and Joba. Which of their minor league pitchers are they bringing along too slowly?

      I would also point out that the Yankees are not the ones hyping their own prospects. Every team hypes their own prospects when given the chance, so no one really cares that much what the team says about them. It’s third parties who see these guys play, look at their stats, and hype them.

      I agree that they don’t NEED a starter, and should be looking for value… whether that’s a slightly less huge deal for a Ubaldo-type or a cheap deal for a Harden-type.

  • Jim S

    Meh, he’ll probably get hurt before the weekend’s over anyway.

  • http://none Favrest

    Trade for him and get him on a plane to Mexico to see Bartolo’s doctor.

    • Kiersten

      Dominican Republic, but same thing, right?

      • Ted Nelson

        It’s scary how many people in the US literally think that Spain is in South America…

        • jsbrendog

          america : who gives a shit about speling or gegrophy. WE KNOW WHERE AMURKA IS!

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            Did you see the president was on TV this week said there’s an education problem here in America? Hmmm? Went on to say that 60% of all Americans can not find Germany on a map of the world. 60%.

            And I say to the president, I say, “Hey, listen here, Mr. Carter, so what if 60% don’t know where Germany is? What about the other 85% that do know where it is, huh? And why the hell should we care about those Germans after what they did to us back in Pearl Harbor there in ’73?!?!'”

            -Harland Williams

  • Angryankee

    Did I miss this somewhere? I think the biggest need is Logan to be what he was last year. Without quoting stats and metrics, the eye ball test tells me the pen has faltered ever so slightly and this is where we should upgrade. Riddled with injuries, disappointment from Logan and sorriano, maybe a decent left handed reliever is in order…

    • Kiersten

      The Yankees are set to acquire bullpen help today. His name is Rafael Soriano.

      • jsbrendog

        what a shitty trade. i bet they give up too much

        • Jim S

          #cashmansux

    • Ted Nelson

      With quoting stats: the Yankees currently have the best bullpen ERA and FIP, and the 4th best bullpen xFIP in the AL.

      A cheap (meaning good trade value) reliever might be a good pick-up, but I don’t think it’s necessary or worth making a bad trade for. As Kiersten says Soriano is coming back. Marte might be back later. Yankees have options in the minors… including JC Romero from the left-side and could move a starting prospect into the pen for a month or two if it’s really a big need.

      With Mo, Robertson, Soriano, Noesi, Wade, Ayala, Logan (+ Romero, Marte, Whelan, Kontos, and MiLB starters as options)… I’m not sure it’s that easy to upgrade, and a lot of the obvious upgrades would cost a lot to trade for.

      • jsbrendog

        but…but…but…he saw it with his own eyes!!!

  • Rich in NJ

    If Montero is called up on Monday (or soon after) and is afforded patience as a BUC and part-time DH, it could be the best move possible.

  • Bronx Byte

    LHP John Danks would be a good fit in the Yankees starting rotation.
    Unsure of Hughes. Tired of seeing him getting pampered.

    • Ted Nelson

      Pampered?

      • http://www.ps3tf2.co.nr/ Double-J

        He just signed an endorsement deal with ‘Little Buddy Diapers.’

    • David, Jr.

      I don’t see how he has been pampered, but he does need to start getting some people out.

      Some facts about him since he has come back:

      Opponent Batting Average – .322

      Opponent On Base Percentage – .400

      His next start could be very closely watched, and rather than pampered he could be sent to AAA.

      • Angryankee

        I don’t think he has been pampered by the Yankees, just the fans…