I haven't written much so far this season because I talk myself out of a lot of different ideas. Why? Small sample sizes. It's hard to tell what is real at this point and what is memorex, so I end up not writing anything. Sorry about that. I know how much you all hang on my every word.
Today I decided to just take the plunge. There are tons of caveats about all of what I'm about to write, but who cares right? It's not like the Reds or Paul Daugherty are going to actually listen to me anyway.
Looking at Aaron Harang's performance so far, two things look like very bright spots to me. First, he's throwing many more first pitch strikes. Last season he hit a career low for first pitch strikes at 59.7%, the only time in his career that he's been below 60%. This year, he's thrown a strike on the first offering a full two-thirds of the time. That's very good news as there is a huge difference for Harang (and most pitchers) when he gets an 0-1 count versus a 1-0 count:
|After 1-0 Count||After 0-1 Count|
Of course, the downside is that some of those first-pitch strikes are hit by the batter, which isn't typically a good thing for any pitcher. Since 2004, opponents hit .360/.360/.662 off Harang when they put that first pitch into fair territory. For Harang, we're still only talking about 10-13% of batters faced that hit that first pitch. It's a small enough percentage that I think the goal should still be that first pitch strike, don't you? It's a goal that both Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey should strive for too, if they want to start going deeper into games.
The other good news for Harang so far in 2010 is that he is once again missing bats. According to FanGraphs, 14% of swings against Harang have failed to make contact (I think that's what SwStr% means). That's the highest percentage of his career - an immediate flag that it won't likely continue - but more importantly, it's a big step up from the 8.5% he's posted the last two seasons. As you know, two starts isn't enough to determine if this is a trend or a freak occurrence, but I'm still going to take it as a positive. Bailey is the next closest starter on the Reds at 11.8%, so it's not like his teammates are having the same type of results.
Maybe I'm grasping at straws here, but I still feel good about Harang as a pitcher. The reality is that unless the Reds are still in the race, he's probably not going to finish the season with the team, but the good news is that if he pitches well, he'll likely bring a much better return in a trade. So, Aaron, keep throwing strikes and let's hope your teammates help you out every once in a while.