2015 Best/Worst Case: Aaron Harang
With the season fast approaching, we’ve been thinking here at TBOH about what kind of team the Phillies may actually have in 2015. This look at Aaron Harang is the 11th in a series of articles speculating on a best and worst case scenario for each player expected to play a key role with the 2015 Philadelphia Phillies squad.
Today’s Player: SP Aaron Harang
Harang is someone who I am particularly looking forward to watching and writing about in 2015. He has always been a sort of enigma to me. Every year I am convinced he is going to be an above average starting pitcher, and every year I am amazed by his mediocrity. This year I have to expect will be no different.
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Harang came over in the off-season from the Phillies’ NL East rivals, the Atlanta Braves. When the club signed him as a free agent it seemed as if they were just trying to collect arms in their 30’s whose careers could end shortly. That judgment didn’t improve any when Chad Billingsley was also signed.
2014 was a nice year for Harang fans, myself included. After 2013, when Harang had gone just 5-12 with a 5.40 ERA and 1.5 homers allowed per 9 innings, the veteran bounced back. He ended the year 12-12 with a 3.57 ERA, started 33 games (his most since 2007), pitched 204.1 innings (also most since ’07), struck out 161 batters (you guessed it… most since 2007), and dropped his homer rate to just 0.7 per nine.
It will be interesting to see if Harang’s age finally catches up to him. Will we see the 2013 ‘bad’ version? The 2014 ‘good’ version? Or could we possibly see an even better version, reminiscent of the pitcher circa 2006? Let’s check out the scenarios.
Best Case Scenario: 15-10/3.50 ERA/ 170 Ks/ 60 BBs/ and a solid #3 starter
I simply couldn’t justify saying that Harang is going to do much better than he did a year ago. At age 35, Harang had a career resurgence. Do I think he is going to repeat what he did? No. Do I think it’s possible? Yes. But even better than last year? He’s 36. Get real. Then again, many people said that about him last year. “He’s 35. Get real.”
In this best-case scenario, I have in a way taken all of my previous player best-case scenario articles and mashed them together. The only way that Harang possibly reaches these numbers would be to receive solid run support. The only way he gets run support is if the overall Phillies team produces. The only way that likely happens is for Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Carlos Ruiz to return to their old all-star form.
If Harang is able to produce a season even reminiscent of 2014, he will be a solid #3 starter for the Phils. Ideally his HR/9 total will stay below one, his BB/9 innings will hover around 2.8 (his career average), and his total K’s will come in around the 170 mark. If that all happens, Harang will be a fantastic addition to the Phillies’ already potentially strong starting rotation.
Matt Veasey wrote an article looking at the entire team with the glass half full. If they are going to have any hope to actually contend, Harang will have to have another career year and lock down that 3rd starter role.
Worst Case Scenario: 8-16/ 5.00 ERA/ 150 Ks/ 80 BBs/ and a shaky #4-5 starter
This is the logical scenario. At 36 years of age, a pitcher often will have difficulty remaining consistent. When a pitcher has made a career out of dancing around his inconsistencies like Harang has, it is even more difficult to stay relevant.
Harang is only one year removed from a dismal performance. A disappointing and ineffective 5.00 ERA shouldn’t be out of the question. In 2010 and 2013, he logged an ERA higher than that 5.00 mark. The key number to watch is the number of homers that Harang allows. In 2010, he allowed 1.3/9, and in 2013 that number jumped to a 1.6/9 mark. If you’re giving up more than homerun in each game, you aren’t going to be too successful. That is especially so in a smaller venue such as Citizens Bank Park.
Harang has made a good living off his control, so the other indicator of success and potential (or lack thereof) would be his walks. In 2014, he walked 3.1/9, which was slightly above his career average. We will have to see if that trend continues in 2015.
All things considered, Aaron Harang is a short-term fix. He isn’t going to be with the team for very long before he retires, and the Phillies aren’t expecting to contend in the very near future. During the time that he is here, he should be able to at least hold down the #4 starting spot. That alone would be big for the Phillies, who have a strong 1-2 punch with little stable behind them.