In the post on Harden's stuff this season @ Oakland, Jon commented on a supposed lack of sliders and a loss of velocity. Essentially, this boils down to two questions, neither of which had yet been answered to Jon's satisfaction. Or mine, for that matter.
If you haven't already, go review the post - and Jon's comment, as it contains some Gameday data that helps set this up.
Welcome back. On to the questions.
First, is that "slider" really a change-up? Some scouting reports claim he doesn't throw it anymore.
Second, has he lost any velocity?
I'll start with question #2.
Has Rich Harden Lost Any Velocity Recently?
I say no. His velocity is fine. As Jon pointed out, the only game the Gameday pitch speeds look lower are July 1 against the Angels. There are a bunch of slower "fastballs" in Anaheim that come, pretty much, together and then his velocity actually goes up to the end of the outing (just 5 innings, I believe). Rudolph the Red Dot is what Gameday called a change-up, the rest are fastballs.
Rich Harden - Fastball (and Change-Up) Speed, Beginning to End, 7/1/08 @ ANA
Going back to the Oakland home games (after his first start back from the DL), and using my own pitch ID's, here are some numbers, or a graph, of his max/avg/min pitch speed - both at release and home plate.
In his last two games, he was less effective, and, against the White Sox, he was wild. Lasting just five inning each time out, he gave up 10 hits - nine singles and a double. So, it isn't like he got pounded, either time.
Looking at fastballs, he did miss the zone more, last time out.
Just to drive the point home, his opponent's hitting numbers from those last two starts.
That's a guy who may be a little wild one day this season. No one is hitting him hard, and his velocity seems stable.
Is That a Change-Up or a Slider?
Update: Better Pitch ID's coming - see here - that's not a slider, ignore what I'm about to say, or said.....
I'm sticking with slider. The high spin rate is probably due to the fact that he throws over the top. Here's a game from Seattle, 4/4/2007 - the only PITCHf/x game for Harden last year. Spin movement looks the same, although I can see what I suspect are a couple splitters, a change lurking amongst the fastballs, and that slider. (I found them)
It is possible that the blob of pitches on the bottom is made-up of sliders and change-ups. But I ask this question - if they're so different, why are the speed and movement so similar? If that's a change-up, what the heck is it? If he gave up the slider, where is it in Seattle in 2007?
I like the fact that MLB.TV archives games. To get down to brass tacks, I went to the video tape. I just needed to watch part of the first inning against the White Sox.
First observation: Defense let him down - even after the error, Jack Cust couldn't get to a line drive (sun issues) which would've ended the inning. Not sure how Quentin scored, I had enough Hawk and DJ by that point
Second observation: I think it is a very tight slider. It's a good pitch, unfair almost. He takes a little off and on his fastball, can cut it, normally rides with a small bit of tail. But he'll throw the "slider" on any count, and anywhere, too. He should make a lot of guys look bad a lot of the time.