What Happened to Harden?

 After writing a glowing analysis of Harden's history and fawning over him last offseason, I got to see him sign with Texas while the Cardinals signed Brad Penny on a similar contract to fill a Harden-shaped hole in my heart. Then we got to watch Penny pull a Harden impression, being a fantastic pitcher for a tiny amount of time, while we got to see Harden do a spot-on Todd Wellemeyer impression in Texas for a short time before being demoted and disappearing from the public eye. What can you say about a pitcher whose BB rate is higher than the Cardinals top three starters combined?

We should sign him.



Thanks to cognitive dissonance, people are really good at rationalizing and pretending that their mistakes were not mistakes.  Did all of the Branch Davidians want to sleep with David Koresh and get killed by the ATF? Of course not. People often stick with a mistaken choice simply because they feel as though they have invested something in it. Yes, Rich Harden has treated me badly, but I know deep down that he loves me!

Psychoanalysis aside, a big reason I think that Harden has something left in the tank is the way he got his awful results. In the conveniently-no-longer-available comments section to my article, I criticized the Texas signing, saying that a flyballer like Harden was no fit for a park and outfield defense like Texas. Harden, who has always thrown up in the zone and who has always given up too many home runs and too many fly balls, responded to the move by posting his worst GB/FB rate of his entire career on his way to a ricocktaculous 1.7 HR/9. He lost two MPH from his average fastball velocity, and he started throwing a really crappy changeup/sinker and moving away from his excellent slider.

The velocity drop is probably not real or is probably only somewhat real: Harden's more varied pitch use seems to have confused the hell out of Fangraphs, and I can't supplement the data breakdown on my own. I can only say it seems extremely fishy and that it appears that Harden's top-end velocity of 92+ remains somewhat intact.

Harden will never again be a major-league caliber pitcher if he can't get his HR/9 under control, but the K/BB of Sidney Ponson aren't going to cut it either. It seems to me that that is at least partially attributable to the cascade of problems: New pitch selection for more grounders->huge drop in whiff%->failure of new pitch selection to increase GB%->panic->water fluoridation->???->profit!

Harden is, as of now, completely broken. Instead of looking like he could be coming into his own, Harden looks like he made all the wrong changes and is no longer a major leaguer. So why would we sign a person like this? I forget. He really is completely wrong for us. Pretend I never mentioned it. I wonder if he will call me...

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