Saturday, January 10, 2009

Rich Harden 2009

Rich Harden is one of the elite pitchers in baseball. He's particularly valuable in games where you don't have to worry about injuries, like Rotohog or Fantasy Sports Live. Last year, he improved on his already outstanding strikeout rate to 11.4 K/9 (in the AL) and then an incredible 12.1 after being traded to the NL. In fact, his strikeout rate has improved every year since 2004. His control remains mediocre (3.9 combined BB/9 in 2008), and if he could ever improve on that he'd likely be the best pitcher in baseball. Another concern is his incredible low groundball rate in 2008 (combined 30.0% pre and post trade). Earlier in his career he averaged a very respectable 44%. In 2007 that dropped to 38.7%. It can be tough knowing how to evaluate a trend like this. Is it a real trend, or just variance? Because groundball rates tend to be relatively stable, and given the size of the drop, I'm going to assume there's been a real change in his approach. The increase in strikeout rate makes me think that's even more likely. In cases like this, I tend to project a number somewhere in the middle of the my best guess is that his 'true' groundball rate is something like 36%. There just aren't many pitchers consistently down near 30%, and I'll assume that number was a little fluky unless Harden repeats it in 2009.

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