Tag Archives: Rich Harden

Brewers Series Preview

The pitching matchups for this weekend’s series favor the Cubs: Harden/Looper, Zambrano/Bush, and Dempster/Suppan. I probably don’t need to provide you with graphs or numbers to get you to believe that – avoiding Parra and Gallardo is a real boon, so thanks for setting your rotation up that way for no real reason, Ken Macha.

However, I will give you both. First, the starters’ career ERAs versus the other team. For Harden, this is in fairly few innings, for everyone else, it’s considerably more:

cubsbrewera1

The Cubs have the edge there in all three matchups. The only thing that surprises me is that it’s not more lopsided. But just because Suppan has a good ERA against the Cubs doesn’t mean he’s actually a good pitcher, I guess.

Next, we have performance against the Brewers’ starters for current Cubs. I restricted it to ten plate appearances minimum, which is a threshold a lot of Cubs can’t meet. I guess it’s not that surprising, given that this team has turned over starters in two outfield spots, second base, shortstop, and catcher since the start of 2007. That makes me wonder if that kind of turnover is precedented for a team that’s won its division in the same span. But on to the graph! 

cubsopsvbrewersstarters

Two Cubs have had some success against Looper: Fukudome and Soto. Not surprisingly, they’re both barely over the 10 PA cutoff. And Soto won’t be playing tomorrow, so that doesn’t really help us anyway. Ramirez and Lee have hammered Bush, with Soriano’s line looking lackluster only by comparison. And Theriot and Lee have both gotten to Suppan in the past, though if they’re the only two who get to him Sunday night, I’ll be disappointed.

Here’s the Brewers versus the Cubs’ starters. In spite of being a young team, they’ve had less turnover than the Cubs in the last few years. But due to Cubs turnover, no Brewer has the ten minimum PAs versus Harden.

breweropsvcubsstarters

I think the conclusions to be drawn here are pretty obvious: Prince Fielder is a good hitter. Jason Kendall for some reason owns Ryan Dempster (in a surprisingly large number of plate appearances). Zambrano has had a little trouble containing Braun, Dempster hasn’t. Corey Hart wears sunglasses at night.

This series looks good for the Cubs, although the second series of the year doesn’t really matter. Off the top of my head, I think the Cubs lost four of six or four of seven against the Brewers in Chicago the first month of the season last year, and yet they ran away with the division. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping to see them jump out to a lead in the division early on.

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“It’s nice to put up that big number”

Rich Harden pitched yesterday for the first time after his recent bout of food poisoning. Unsurprisingly, he was able to get minor-league hitters out. His velocity was only in the low-90s, but he was unconcerned, saying he was happy with it where it was now, and that velocity wasn’t the most important thing. If he were the Mark DeRosa or Ryan Theriot of pitchers, he’d have used the “pitching, not throwing,” cliche. 

He’s right, of course. Just throwing hard doesn’t make you a good pitcher. (See Farnsworth, Kyle). And even without a lot of heat on your fastball you can still get batters out. (See Maddux, Greg) Velocity definitely doesn’t hurt, in general, though:

velocity-fip

There’s not a strong correlation between velocity and performance (measured in fielding independent pitching), although all other things being equal, throwing faster is probably better than throwing slower – but not enough that you should sacrifice command or anything else for it. 

As for Harden himself, Fangraphs has four years of velocity data for him. Last season was the lowest velocity season he’s had – he averaged 92 mph on his fastball, but put up his second-best FIP–2.95. His only better season was the season where he was throwing his hardest – at 94.4 mph, he put up a 2.90 FIP in 2005. So for Harden, it doesn’t seem to be much about velocity; he’s a good enough pitcher that he can get batters out down a couple of miles. The important thing for him is staying healthy, and I’d rather see him able to go out and throw 100 pitches at 90 mph than 50 at 95.

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