Aaron Harang’s name keeps rising to the surface with the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline fast approaching.
Harang, who picked up his ninth victory of the season Monday, is having a bit of a resurgence with the Padres this year, recording his highest win total since 2007 and the lowest ERA of his career.
Rumors have been swirling that multiple clubs have expressed an interest in San Diego’s righty starter, but it would be wise for the Padres to stand pat and look to re-sign the 10-year veteran.
Petco Park—the Padres' home field—and Harang go together like spaghetti and meatballs. Or, to borrow a phrase from "Big Daddy," maybe you prefer lamb and tuna fish? Either way, it is a match made in baseball heaven.
A fly-ball pitcher like Harang thrives when placed in a pitcher-friendly environment and becomes increasingly alarming to his ballclub when taking the hill in one of baseball’s hitter-orientated parks.
Surrendering fly balls on 38.6 percent of his balls in play, Harang trails only five National League starters in that category. His ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio is the ninth lowest among NL starters who have thrown at least 1,000 pitches.
San Diego has always been home to Harang, who attended San Diego State before being drafted and signed by the Texas Rangers. He was subsequently traded to Oakland where he played sparingly before being dealt to Cincinnati, his home for eight up-and-down seasons.
Following two 16-win campaigns in 2006 and 2007, his win total nosedived to six for three-straight seasons, while his ERA ballooned to 5.32 in 2010.
So, what happened? As much as hurlers love the spaciousness of Petco, they despise the customary tendency of fly balls finding the bleachers at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park.
Park Factor is a tool used in baseball vernacular to discern between a team’s scoring ability in home versus road games. It helps access how a team or player’s performance is affected by park dimensions and quirks.
Great American Ball Park has the sixth-highest factor as of July 24, 2011, while Petco ranks 26th out of 30 major league fields.
Balls lofted into the outfield in Cincinnati make it over the fence on average 2.52 times per game, topping the NL and ranking third-highest in MLB. Only 1.06 long balls per game are being hit this year at Petco, the lowest average in baseball.
Harang’s home runs per nine innings of work peaked in 2008 at 1.71 and remained elevated until he removed his Reds uniform this year. In 2011, his HR/9 figure is 0.82. Not since his 2002 rookie season in Oakland—where he surrendered 0.80 HR/9 in 15 starts—has Harang allowed such depressed jack totals.
His fly-ball ratio has decreased a tad since 2010, but he is actually striking out batters less often. At 33, it appears Harang has finally found a surrounding that fits his pitching style: inducing contact, while keeping hitters off balance with a sturdy four-pitch repertoire.
Earning $3.5 million, Harang could be seeking a team-friendly multiyear deal that keeps him in his hometown for the remainder of his career as an effective starter. On the open market, there could be some competing suitors, but the bond being developed between player and franchise appears to be mutually ideal.
ESPN baseball columnist Jayson Stark tweeted Monday that the Padres have heard from multiple clubs on Harang, but now appear more inclined to work out a fresh deal with their starter. A package or player in return for Harang would likely include nothing more than a second-tier prospect, so the incentive to deal him remains muted.
It would not only be detrimental to my fantasy baseball playoff run for Harang to leave the generous dimensions of San Diego, but it would do the player and ballclub a disservice to remove his veteran presence from what will surely be a youthful rotation for some time.
All indications point to Harang staying put, and extending his stay in San Diego for a few more seasons.