3.61 ERA 4.14 FIP 179.2 IP 6.56 K/9 4.26 BB/9 1.5 fWAR B+
2012 in brief: Provided a steady, if unspectacular, back-end presence.
2013 status: Signed for $7m in final year of back-loaded two-year deal.
Aaron Harang is boring. Really, really, boring, with one obvious exception that we’ll get to in a second. I say that, believe it or not, without any negative connotation at all. Harang rarely went out and delivered an outstanding effort, reaching or topping 70 in Game Score just four times. (Clayton Kershaw, by comparison, did so 15 times.) But he was rarely awful, either, allowing more than four earned runs in a game only three times. Only three times – not the same three – did he fail to complete at least five innings; only six times did he get through seven.
What Harang did do was take the ball every fifth day and generally give the team a chance to win, more often than not getting pulled in or after the sixth inning having two to four earned runs. He was almost eminently average, and while you know how I feel about win/loss record, the fact that he ended up at 10-10 is just about perfect. He didn’t get hurt, he didn’t kill you, and he lasted through the entire season. For a fifth starter, that’s the kind of thing teams dream about.
That’s boring, and means it was a season largely without notable moments – hence the lack of quotables here – but it’s far from being without value. Don’t forget, this was a rotation that lost Ted Lilly for nearly the entire year, Chad Billingsley for almost half of it, and had a questionable Kershaw for most of the final month. To simply have someone being quietly reliable like Harang, is more than worthwhile.
That’s not exactly the same thing as being “good,” of course. What’s the main difference between the 14-7, 3.61 he had with San Diego in 2011 and the 10-10, 3.64 he had with the Dodgers this year? (Other than win/loss record being stupid, of course.) Well, it’s a funny thing; Harang’s strikeout rate held steady, but his walk rate shot up from 3.06 per nine to 4.26, highest since his rookie season. Yet while he put more runners on via the walk, he managed to avoid the big inning by restricting hitters to 0.70 HR/9 and a .277 BABIP, each career low marks. I’m honestly having a hard time seeing him repeat that next year; on the other hand, he did end the season with ten straight starts allowing three runs or fewer.
As vanilla as Harang’s season may have been, we’d be remiss not to note what happened in San Diego on April 13, his second start of the season:
Aaron Harang allowed a leadoff single to Cameron Maybin, and then proceeded to strike out each of the next nine batters. Aaron Effing Harang! The nine consecutive strikeouts topped Johnny Podres’ eight to set a new Dodger record and fell one short of tying Tom Seaver’s ten in a row for the big league record. Podres won some of the biggest games in franchise history. Seaver was a no-doubter Hall of Famer. Aaron Harang is Aaron Harang. Can’t predict baseball, indeed. Harang was touched in the fourth for three runs, including a Will Venable homer which broke the streak, but came back to whiff four more to tie his career high with 13 in his 6 1/3 innings of work. After a disappointing debut as a Dodger in the only loss of the season so far, it was an amazing turnaround for the veteran Harang.
Harang, of course, never approximated anything like that for the rest of the season. But sometimes half the job is just showing up, and he at least did that. Fine work, Aaron. Now enjoy pitching in Toronto or Seattle or Miami or wherever you’re inevitably headed once the Dodgers sign a couple of starting pitchers.