The 2011 season is nearly upon us but before I can start that there one piece of old Reds business to address. After almost 3 years Aaron Harang has come forward admitting that it was indeed his relief appearance in May 25 2008 against San Diego that caused his pitching down fall. To quote Harang:
“What it did,” said Harang, “is fatigue me beyond the point of recovery. I started to change my arm angle to compensate for the fatigue and that’s when my forearm started to bother me.”
In all fairness lets take a look at it from a stat perspective. In the Three seasons before 2008 (including OAK) Harang in 101 starts had a 3.77 ERA with almost 678 innings pitched not bad and definitely worthy to be the RED’s ACE. During the extra innings game Harang pitch 63 pitches in 3 scoreless innings with 9 strike outs. . The following outing against the Pirates 4 days later he gave up 6 runs in 4 innings throwing 73 pitches. From there he tail spun out of control 18 appearances after the relief game in SD his ERA ballooned up to 5.88 and was then on the DL for a month with Arm strain. In 2009 and 2010 things really did not get any better with a combined 46 starts ( only 26 in 2009) Harang had an ERA of 4.66.
After looking at the stats you can make the argument that it was the turning point in his career and it easily plays into Dusty Baker’s critics reputation of ruining pitchers. However if Harang knew that he had arm fatigue from the relief and start on short rest then why did he say something? Why did he change his arm mechanics to try and compensate when good old rest relaxation and an ice pack could help? It’s not like the Reds where in any real sort of contention. On May 24th 2008 the day before the fateful SD game the Reds where in last place 6.5 games back of the Cubs. A month later June 24th the Reds where still in last place 10 games back and finished the season in 2nd to last place. Now the whole story isn’t told here I am sure. Did Harang push himself because he was the ace of the staff and try to play through it to help lead the pitching staff by example? Did Dusty and Dick Pole pitching coach at the time push Harang to keep playing? I am not sure and we may never know. Hind sight being 20/20 again the question bags to be asked at some point before the last month of the season maybe even after two starts why didn’t Harang just sit and rest rather than mess his arm up by trying new arm mechanics? Also there is one other factor to consider Harang also turned 30 shortly before that relief appearance. Maybe the relief appearance was just a straw that broke a camels back?
In the end looking from the outside in it just seems to easy to take what all of Dusty’s critics have labeled him with and use it as an excuse to justify to the fans of San Deigo of why they should give him his shot. In all honesty with the exception of if he pitches against the Reds I hope he does well and not only gets his shot but also excels and makes a successful come back. I always liked Harangatang he seemed to be upstanding man as well as player and I wish him all the best. When It comes to this issue however I have to call it as I see it and to me I call it an excuse.