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A Tale of Two Pitchers: CJ Wilson and Rich Harden

June 7, 2010

When this season started I had high hopes for the Rangers pitching staff, and for the most part they have delivered.  There have been quite a few ups and downs, but in general I am quite happy with their performance thus far.

I expected Rich Harden to have a decent season, and was somewhat skeptical of moving CJ Wilson to the starting rotation. 

Boy was I wrong.

CJ Wilson has been an all around success.

CJ Wilson has been a great success as a starter.  Despite rough stretch of 4-5 games he has pitched extremely well. 

He is tied for the lowest ERA amongst Rangers starters with Colby Lewis at 3.62 while being tied for the team lead in innings pitched, again with Lewis.  (Their stat lines are actually ridiculously similar.)

Until Tommy Hunter returned to the rotation (thank you baseball gods) on Saturday and tossed a complete game, Wilson was the only Rangers pitcher to go the distance, and he did it twice though one was not the full nine innings.

He has allowed only four home runs, and those all came in the last week or so. 

There is probably not another Rangers fan out there that was as against CJ Wilson moving to the rotation as I was, but I am quite happy to admit that I was wrong.

Rich Harden has been a complete disappointment.

Harden on the other hand has been a complete disappointment. 

He has given up the most home runs on the team with 10.  He leads the American League in walks with 40, and is second in the Majors to only Clayton Kershaw who has 42.

The Home runs don’t bother me nearly as much as the walks.  I realize that walks will happen, but when they are occurring as often as they are for Harden it is just ridiculous. 

There is a reason a walk is also referred to as a free pass.  You are gifting that hitter a chance to come around and score, and runners have done plenty of that against Harden.

The other drawback to so many walks is that it pushes your pitch count up which brings your innings pitched down.  Despite having one more start than the other three consistent starters for the Rangers, Harden has thrown six innings less than Feldman, and 10 less than Lewis and Wilson.

In twelve starts he has only thrown 59 innings.  That means that on average he only goes 4.9 innings, or in other words, he wouldn’t even be eligible for the win should a win be the ultimate outcome.

The real problem with having such short outings where he barely covers half the game, or less, is that the bullpen gets worked that much more.  While they have done a good job thus far we can’t expect the continued wear and tear from such short outings to have no effect.

Especially as the summer heat rolls in our starters must go deeper into the games, but I just don’t see Harden doing it.  He has lost his control completely, and I have little hope he will find it.

He showed us what he is capable of back when the Rangers were in Oakland, but one good game doesn’t make up for the majority of bad ones. 

He obviously is not trade bait, and he will not likely get sent to the minors, but based upon the success of Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter I am more than happy to let Harden be on his way and let the youth have their chance.

They gave it a whirl, and it didn’t pan out.  Cut your losses and move on to something new. 

Even behind Hunter and Holland there are other pitchers at AAA knocking on the door, and I can’t understand why the Rangers would keep beating a lame horse when they are competing to stay on top of the division.

This organization has a history of holding on to players a little too long in my opinion, and it is time to make a move.  I am all for giving a guy a chance to break out of a slump, but when you slump for over two months you have had your chance.

Frank Francisco was pulled as the closer after two blown saves.  Chris Davis was sent down after a tough couple of weeks.  Taylor Teagarden went all the way to AA in a matter of weeks. 

They are finally showing a willingness to take decisive action for the betterment of the team, so why are they so hesitant to make this move?

A similar case could be made for Scott Feldman, but I am willing to give him a little longer leash for a couple of reasons.

One, he is averaging an inning more per start than Harden.

Two, he is not issuing free passes, hitters are just finding holes.

And three, he showed us last season how could he could be with this team.  He just needs to settle down and relax.  I think the pressure of being the number one guy has gotten to him.  I am more confident in him finding his groove than I am Harden.

I am not a GM, nor do I claim to be, but it seems obvious to me that if a starter can’t consistently get you through six innings, or in Harden’s case fine, then it is time to bring in someone that can.

This is the most promising season we as fans have had in some time and I would hate to see it thrown away because they are unwilling to make a move. 

When push comes to shove this is a business, and if your employee is not performing up to expectations it is time to show him the door.  Especially when you have as much talent in waiting as we do we can’t afford to waste any more time on Harden.

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