Aaron Harang looks like he’d be a sweaty guy.
On a day where the Mariners shook things up quite a bit with their active and 40 man roster, following a week where they shook things up on their active and 40 man roster, for some people Aaron Harang looked like a dead man walking. Or pitching.
Then, of course, he came out and threw a complete game shutout, throwing a very pleasant wrench into the plans of people calling for his genitals on a cutting board.
Harang came into Monday’s action the owner of some pretty piss-poor results to this point in the season, boasting an 8.58 ERA and having given up 8 home runs in only 28.1 innings. With the call up of Hector Noesi, it seemed like Harang may not be long for the 40 man roster, as Noesi has started in the past, and was decent in Harang’s absence two weeks ago, albeit in limited innings.
Harang has looked bad this year because when bad things happen they look bad. Harang has also looked bad because he looks like if this was the 1800s he’d be wearing a bad, dusty suit and top hat, selling snake venom from a horse drawn wagon as a cure for impotence. Or a magician. Or something else equally nonathletic and past the peak of its popularity.
But Harang’s peripherals are actually alright. He strikes a fair amount of batters out – and always has – as well as not walking a ton of hitters. He came into Monday with an unlucky 17.0 percent HR/FB compared to his career average, and basically league average in the category of 10.5 percent.
Of course, these average stats presume a certain range of talent, talent being a thing that is most-often fleeting in aging players. Giving up a lot of homeruns is usually the hallmark of a really bad pitcher. Often age influences remaining talent. Some people may relate that to having “gas left in the tank.” Of course, this is the tank that includes remaining career, and not the per-game tank that is also oft-over-invoked.
For pitcher the marker of age is usually reduced production that correlates reasonably well with reduced velocity. Harang – contrary to conventional wisdom – has seemed to draw public ire as a “has been” while actually throwing harder than he did when he first came up in 2002.
The reality is that Harang simply has never been that good, but he’s not nearly as bad as he’s been made out to be this year. He’s a career league average pitcher in terms of xFIP- with a 98 on a scale where 100 is average, and anything lower is better.
Of course, people will tell you that “this isn’t the Reds version of Aaron Harang.” That’s true. That version of Harang was on-average about 10 percent better than league average, including 18 and 20 percent better than average respectively in 2006 and 2007, when he won a combined 32 games, feeding public opinion that he was something closer to an ace than he actually is.
He came into Monday’s action with a 104 xFIP-, and today’s performance should push him to a little bit above average. Hopefully he’s got some bad luck behind him, but even if he does, league-average is probably all the Mariners can expect, because for a vast majority of Harang’s career that’s all he’s ever been.