The Brewers crushed Rangers pitcher Rich Harden for four home runs on Friday night, with hitters 2 through 5 taking Harden deep (and Corey Hart and Prince Fielder doing it back-to-back). While it was definitely fun to watch, I couldn’t help but wondering what the heck happened to Harden.
As recently as 2008, Harden was a legitimate top of the rotation guy. He was the Cubs’ answer to the Brewers trading for CC Sabathia. After the trade to Chicago that year, he pitched the way you would expect an AL ace moving to the NL to pitch. Things started to go downhill last year, though — his K/9 was still incredible, but his BB/9 increased (3.71 to 4.28) and his HR/9 skyrocketed (0.67 to 1.47).
The Cubs let him go this past winter, and the Rangers scooped him up. Coming into Friday’s start, Harden’s numbers were down again — a K/9 of 8.39 (the first time since 2005 it’s been below 9), a BB/9 of 6.10 (!), and a HR/9 of (1.53). A guy who used to be one of the most dominant pitchers in the league has been a replacement level pitcher to this point.
Looking at the data from his start tonight, his once-blazing fastball averaged 89.77 MPH. His changeup, the pitch that made him so tough to hit, was just a few MPH slower at 83.43 MPH. A guy who used to have five good pitches is now, more or less, a two-pitch pitcher — and those two pitches weren’t very good tonight.
After seeing the Brewers fail to capitalize on bad pitching numerous times this season, it was nice to see them capitalize on it tonight. For whatever reason, Harden doesn’t have it anymore. Maybe he needs to move to the bullpen, maybe the Rangers’ stupid new pitching philosophy is wearing him thin (he threw 120 pitches tonight), but something just doesn’t look right. It’s a shame, because he was one guy who was fun to watch.
W: Chris Narveson (5-3)
L: Rich Harden (3-3)
TEX HR: Vladimir Guerrero (14)
MIL HR: Ryan Braun (9), Casey McGehee (10), Corey Hart (17), Prince Fielder (10)