Aaron Harang is not guaranteed the #1 starter’s role this year after back-to-back seasons with just 6 wins and double-digit losses each year. However, I am optimistic that Harang will have a bounce-back season for a couple of reasons.

First, while most of his numbers haven’t been as good as they were before 2008, they reflect a pitcher who is better than his 12-31 record. He’s had the lowest run support on the team the past two seasons. The 3.5 runs per game the team has scored for him is less than teams like the Pirates and Padres score per game (3.95 last year.)

Second, since he missed the end of last year with a non-arm injury, he is coming off a season that put less mileage on his arm than prior years.

This positive for Harang might have worked out as a negative for someone like Homer Bailey, who was ridden a little harder than you’d like to see a young starter worked in September for a team out of contention.

And third, Harang HAS been “the pitcher of old” early in each of the past two seasons. Two very questionable decisions by the Reds coaches may have contributed to Harang’s poor aggregate performance over the past two seasons. I’m speaking of his bullpen appearance in an 18 inning game in San Diego, and his pitching after a two-hour rain delay against Houston to gain a W.

Year W – L Games IP ERA WHIP
2008 up to SD 2 – 6 12 78.2 3.32 1.19
2008 after SD 4 – 11 18 105.2 5.88 1.52
2009 up to Hou 5 – 4 10 64.1 3.36 1.31
2009 after Hou 1 – 10 16 98.0 4.78 1.48

You can see a very clear difference in Harang’s numbers before and after each questionable event.

The following combines these before and after periods from 2008-2009 and compares them to the Aaron Harang we knew from 2005-2007.

W – L Games IP ERA WHIP BB/9 K/9 K/BB
Up to “misuse” 7 – 10 22 143.0 3.34 1.24 2.1 8.1 3.8
After “misuse” 5 – 21 34 203.2 5.35 1.50 2.6 7.4 2.8
2005-07 43 – 30 102 677.2 3.77 1.23 2.1 7.9 3.8