For a while, I considered Aaron Harang to be be a very good pitcher. Now, I realize he's just good. I'm hoping the Cubs will beat up on him today, and here's what I'll be looking for...
- More grounders, or else: Harang threw about eight sinkers last time out, and it's a pitch he usually uses sparingly (if at all). Against his fastballs, Harang yielded a ground ball rate of 41% in the limited sample of 2007 PITCHf/x data. In 2008 the fastball was a fly ball machine (just 29% grounders). To date, the fastball has yielded a GB rate 32% in 2009. Harang's HR/FB rate allowed on the heater has always been about average (despite pitching in Cincy's bandbox it hovers around 11%), but I think the wind will be out to left on a warm day - better keep the ball down.
- An improved curveball, or not: the lefties in today's line-up will see a pitch that Harang has thrown for more and more strikes each of the last three years (38%, 47%, 56%). Oddly, as with all of Harang's pitches, it rarely misses bats (three-year whiff rate of 11%, which is just about where 2009 is, too). It's thrown to be taken (lots of called strikes, hitters actually take more than half of the curves that he throws for strikes). In 2009, Harang has benefited from poorly hit balls (SLGCON of .250) or luck (expected run value allowed is about two runs per 100 curveballs higher than actual run value allowed)
- Velocity, or lack thereof: Harang's speed varies, anywhere from the low 80s to the mid/upper 90s. Yes, he had some injury problems, but, like Carlos Zambrano, Harang does like to take something off the fastball on occasion. Expect Harang to sit around 92 and top out under 95. Don't be surprised if he throws a few around 87, though.