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.
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.