is that he actually didn't pitch very well in 2011. This was easy to overlook, since not only was Harden a "low-risk bargain" at $1M, but during many stretches he dazzled with his fastball-changeup combo that, when the changeup is moving every which way, makes him unhittable at that moment or for that stretch of innings. It gave Rich the appearance of someone who is probably unhittable most of the time.
But by any measure, Harden was not in fact effective overall.
Starting with the most basic statistic, despite calling "pitcher-friendly" Oakland his home Harden posted a 5.12 ERA for the season. Ouch.
Continuing on, he gave up a rather mind-numbing 17 HRs in his 82.2 IP. They weren't cheapies, either, often coming on hanging changeups that right-handed batters deposited 20 rows deep into the bleachers.
If you like FIP, you probably won't care for Harden's: 4.69 (xFIP 3.68). Essentially, he walked quite a few, struck out a lot, gave up a truckload of HRs, and wasn't especially effective in between.
Innings eater? Not. Harden made 15 starts and in only 7 of them did he pitch as many as 6 IP. More typically, Harden was good for about 5.0 (twice), 5.1 (twice), or 5.2 (once). Except in the first half of the season when he didn't pitch at all.
What you had, in Rich Harden, was a pitcher who would generally go about 5.1 IP and strike out 6, but would also walk a couple, give up 3 ER (including a HR), and leave the bullpen to figure out the other 11 outs. Not terribly helpful and quite easy to replace.
Is he worth a flier for $1M? Quite possibly. However, the premise is that he never seems to be healthy, but when he is "Oh my, the guy can still dazzle." Or can he?
In other news, the Mets have named Bob Geren as their new bench coach. Asked about the job, Geren was (probably) quoted as singing, "If I can sniff my finger there, I can sniff my finger anywhere..." Comparative IQs of Geren and the Mets' actual bench were not made immediately available.
Tigers-Claw People at 5:00 PDT today, Max "Shur-zir" against Derek Holland, with the CPs leading the series 3-2.