We’ve been without even average starting pitching for so long, Bronson Arroyo got standing ovations for good starts at the beginning of the season last year. We’d almost forgotten what good, consistent starting pitching looked like. Last year was a lot better with Arroyo and Harang leading the way. They were worked hard but both responded by posting career seasons. Arroyo has his own little cult following but, at least to me, Harang doesn’t seem to get quite the credit he’s deserved. He’s not flying under the radar but maybe we don’t appreciate what he’s given us the past two seasons and is continuing to give us in 2008.

Using BP’s NRA (Normalized Runs Allowed), we can compare Harang to other Reds pitchers of the past 20+ years. Looking at the chart, Harang’s last two years stack up against the best two seasons of any other Reds pitcher of the past 25+ years.

Pitcher  Year    IP    NRA   
Harang  2005  211.7  3.83 
  2006  234.3  3.52 
Soto  1982  257.7  3.41 
  1983  273.7  3.44 
Browning  1988  250.7  3.88 
  1990  227.7  3.85 
Schourek  1995  190.3  3.48 
  1997  84.7  5.99 
Jackson  1988  260.7  3.35 
  1990  117.3  4.11 
Rijo  1990  197.0  3.05 
  1991  204.3  3.23 
  1992  211.0  3.37 
  1993  257.3  2.81 

We see that Danny Jackson and Pete Schourek were one-year wonders. For Jackson, it was because he was ridden so hard in 1988 and Schourek was never that durable to begin with. Mario Soto put two consecutive years together that were pretty darn impressive. Jose Rijo had a great 4 year run from 1990-1993. Rijo’s arm finally gave out in 1994. Tom Browning had a good run, too, but, aside from his perfect game, was never considered dominant. He was more reliant on his defense, which was good during his run, than the other pitchers listed.

Harang has shown the past two years and the first half of this year that he is both durable and good. Soto and Rijo were the only pitchers who put up comparable or better seasons back to back.

Are we wasting or have we wasted Aaron Harang’s prime? Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA seems to think we might have. Harang has been a great pitcher for the Reds the past two seasons. His pitching was worth 7.6 wins above replacement level in 2005 and 8.8 wins in 2006. PECOTA doesn’t see any seasons that dominant in the future. In fact, Harang’s most comparable pitcher is Freddy Garcia who hasn’t faired very well since his age 29 season.

Harang really is the ace of this team. I’m not saying no one has noticed he’s good but it just seems to me he doesn’t get quite the attention he should.

Join the conversation! 20 Comments

  1. Eric,

    Where are you getting the Garcia comp? B-Ref has his closest comp as Arroyo and closest by age 28 as Brian Moehler. Not that these are something to get excited about, mind you, but I didn’t see Garcia in either top 10.

    In fact, if Bronson is Harang’s closest comp by sim scores, either Arroyo is better than I think he is or Aaron’s not as good.

  2. -Phil-
    The comp comes from his PECOTA card on the BP website. It’s a membership part so if you aren’t a member, you probably can’t see it.

    On BP’s, a score of 50 or higher means a pitcher is very comparable. Garcia is a 44. Next highest is Pete Vuckovich at 34.

  3. Great post, Eric. I don’t think there can be any argument that Harang doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

  4. Eric,

    Thanks. I’m a member, just didn’t look deep enough.

    Harang really is the ace of this team. I’m not saying no one has noticed he’s good but it just seems to me he doesn’t get quite the attention he should.

    Despite my first comments, I agree that Harang is the ace. I didn’t realize that myself until I started digging after his last few outings.

    Two reason I think he gets the Rodney Dangerfield treatment. One, he just doesn’t look like a pitcher. He looks like a guy who got lost on the way to his nephew’s Bar Mitzvah and had to ask directions. Second, Bronson the Rock Star and Homer. Between those two, there’s not a lot of column inches left over for an ordinary guy like Harang.

    Finally, it’s a certainty that the reds are “wasting” Harang’s peak years, but I think barring injury he’ll still be a solid No 3 when this team is ready to compete again (2009 or 2010).

  5. Anyone know the Rotation for this weekends game. I know Harang goes tonight. I’m headed up to Seattle to see the game on Saturday. I’m guessing Loshe, but I’m really hoping its not…


  6. Harang-Loshe-Arroyo against Beak-Washburn-Bastista. Then off Monday and the set that I will see in Philly is Bailey-Belisle-Harang. then they host STL

  7. Thanks, Justin. Where did you find that info?

  8. I looked up at cbs.sportsline.com and ESPN.com. They both have the bump day of Arroyo listed.

  9. I am sorry yopu get Loshe, he isnt that bad. I saw him last year in Philly. He pitched well. When he is on he is on. When he is off look out.

  10. I posted this in another thread, but since Dr Kyle and Mr Lohse has come up again:

    …Jayson Stark’s latest Rumblings and Grumblings at ESPN.com points out that Kyle Lohse has received the 4th lowest run support in MLB at 3.21 runs/9. In five of his starts he’s gone at least 6 innings with only one run to back him up. I know he’s been somewhat erratic, but the offense hasn’t given him much of a margin for error.

  11. One quibble: “Soto was the only pitcher who put up comparable or better seasons back to back.”

    You meant to include Rijo in there, right? In his day, Rijo was just as underrated as Harang is now. If not moreso.

  12. -Chris-
    You’re right. Meant to include him in there but brain-farted. Fixed it.

  13. Soto’s seasons may be a little more impressive, thought. The ’82-’84 Reds were probably the worst Reds’ teams of my lifetime.

  14. -Phil-
    When adjusting for defense:

    Soto 1982 3.45
    Soto 1983 3.92
    Harang 2005 3.65
    Harang 2006 3.51

    Appears Soto pitched with a better defense behind him. Even given how bad those teams were, it’s not hard to believe. Those teams didn’t have anyone good enough offensively that they would have to put up with a bad glove.

  15. Eddie Milner was a good defender. Cedeno was in RF, and was probably OK. Concepcion was probably still around average…

  16. Harang’s not Soto or Rijo. While he may be the ace of this team, I think the Browning comparison is the fairest. And if Browning is your ace, then you need more pitching.

  17. -GregD-
    Harang isn’t as dominating as those two but Browning is not a good comp for Harang. Very different types of pitchers.

    Keep in mind that Harang pitches in a worse ballpark, with a worse defense in an ERA where run-scoring is much higher.

    The flip side of that is he also pitches in an era where strikeouts are higher so his K-rate is inflated when compared to those two.

    I’m not saying Harang is better but maybe after we look at the numbers, he deserves to be in the conversation with them.

  18. Eric,

    You’ve got Soto’s ’83 and ’84 DERAs. His ’82 DERA was 3.31 while ’83 was 3.45, so that makes your point even stronger. 😀 Damn columns at B-Pro and BB-Ref won’t line up in Firefox.

    Those teams didn’t have anyone good enough offensively that they would have to put up with a bad glove.

    Not exactly. The ’82 team logged a DER of 0.702, which was 21st out of 26 teams. The ’83 team did improve to 10th out of 26 with a 0.716 DER, though.

    For comparison, the ’06 team had a DER of 0.691, good for 21st out of 30. The ’05 team was truly awful, finishing 28th out of 30 with a DER of 0.683.

    While Soto had a marginally better defense behind him, only the ’83 team approached respectability in that regard. Makes sense since the ’83 Reds had the fewest losses of the ’82-’84 period. (Of course, it could have been the stewardship of the immortal Russ Nixon that did it.)

    But my point was actually to compare Rijo and Soto per Chris’ comment. Except for ’93, Rijo had a better defense behind him that Mario. His DERA from ’90-’93 in order: 3.39, 3.28, 3.47, 2.70. The Reds’ DER for the same period with rank in parentheses: 0.717 (8/26), 0.710 (17/26), 0.705 (19/26), 0.684 (26/28) . And, of course, the ’90-’93 Reds fielded a better offense that the early ’80s group (who couldn’t?).

    So I think the point stand. Pitching for teams that were weaker both offensively and defensively than the teams that supported Rijo, Soto’s ’82 and ’83 seasons are pretty impressive. This is to take nothing away from Rijo’s fine work, especially in ’93 when the defense went to Hell in a handbasket.

  19. To beat my dead horse a little longer, some more Soto vs Rijo vs Harang numbers.

    Soto 1982 3.41 3.31
    Soto 1983 3.44 3.45
    Rijo 1990 3.05 3.39
    Rijo 1991 3.23 3.25
    Rijo 1992 3.37 3.47
    Rijo 1993 2.81 2.70
    Hara 2005 3.83 3.65
    Hara 2006 3.52 3.51

    From B-Pro: Note that if DERA is higher than NRA, you can safely assume he pitched in front of an above-average defense.

    From this, we see that only Jose Rijo had the luxury of pitching in front of a defense that could be safely called “above average”. And that in only two of the four season cited.

    One also could conclude that Soto’s ’83, Rijo’s ’91 and Harang’s ’06 are similar efforts in terms of the defenses behind them. And that Soto’s ’82, Rijo’s ’93 and Harang’s “05 are likewise similar. IOW, all three pitchers turned in stellar efforts in front of what appear to be average to well below average defenses.

    Regardless of which pitcher you think turned in the most impressive work, it’s startling to discover that the unassuming Aaron Harang’s best ranks with the two best starting pitchers to wear a Reds’ uniform in the last quarter century

  20. While I was in Florida….spoke with Thomas Pauly (’03 2nd round pick) and his opinion was that if Ritchie Gardner hadn’t gotten hurt, he’d be the Reds ace right now. Said he had incredible stuff.

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