Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Rich Harden

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Reader Blog: Cubs' 2009 castoffs: What are they doing now?

Milton Bradley
He's been slowed by a calf injury and, presumably, by the fact that he's certifiably insane. He's hitting .214 with two home runs and 12 RBI. He has a relatively poor .313 OBP. Oh, and he's mad again.

Aaron Miles
Miles disappointed the Cubs immensely in 2009, and did the same to the Reds in spring training. They designated him for assignment (i.e. released him) on April 5, and he signed a minor league contract with the Cardinals last Tuesday.

Reed Johnson
Jim Hendry let Johnson go in favor of free agent Xavier Nady. Johnson found a home with the Dodgers, and here's the comparison thus far:

Player-------AB-------Avg.------HR-----RBI-----OBP
Nady---------34-------.176----------1---------4-------.333
Johnson----48-------.271----------0--------4-------.286

So, basically, it's a big shoulder shrug of a move at this point. However, there's a $2.5 million difference in their salaries, so Nady needs to get it going to make Hendry's investment a good one.

Andres Blanco
He has only amassed 33 at-bats with the Rangers thus far--his slash line (average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) is an underwhelming .212/.278/.212.

Rich Harden
Rich Harden has been SO Rich Harden with the Rangers. He has not allowed more than four earned runs in any of his six starts this season, yet he's gone five innings or more just three times. His walk total in his first five starts: 5, 3, 6, 4, 5. Not good. He's had two pretty good starts in a row, however, including a dominant outing on Monday.

Aaron Heilman
You probably know what he's up to after having seen him pitch against the Cubs this weekend: six earned runs in just 10.2 innings on the season (5.06 ERA), plus five walks and two home runs.

Kevin Gregg
Gregg lost out on the closer role in spring training, but Jason Frasor's struggles have resulted in several save opportunities for him. He's 7-for-7 in those chances, has struck out 16 guys in 13 innings, and has a miniscule 0.69 ERA. Basically, he's been awesome. If we would have known he was going to do that, he would have fit real nicely in the eighth inning for the Cubs!

Read more of Brandon's work at his blog Wait 'til this Year!

2009 Recap: Rich Harden

Rich Harden
I told you all about how Ryan Dempster let the Cubs in strikeouts. As it turns out, he almost didn't.

Rich Harden pitched 59 fewer innings, started five fewer games -- and at the end of the season, only trailed Demp by one in the strikeout category.

Of his 26 starts, Harden racked up eight or more strikeouts in 12 of them. As you may or may not know, 12 is really close to half of 26. So that is really super great.

Rich's 171 strikeouts in 141 innings gave him a rate of nearly 11 K's per nine innings pitched. Unfortunately, Rich never managed to get through all nine innings this season.

In fact, he only threw more than six innings exactly five times this year. And Harden never did make it to the eighth inning.

So what's a 141-inning strikeout machine worth? According to Fangraphs, probably about $8 million. Intuitively, I think that makes sense. Furthermore, it's what Harden was paid for 2009.

As for what Rich's value is going forward, it seems as though the Cubs really don't care (our friends at MLB Trade Rumors have a good summary of those discussions).

And I'm glad to hear it.

In fact, you may recall the buzz from last year that was generated by the Cubs' placing Harden on waivers. Reports suggested he'd been claimed by the Twins; a deal was never reached.

I'm sorry that deal never materialized, and I'm glad Harden's projecting to be a Type B free agent now because I don't even wanna mess with that arbitration garbage with him.

I say that because Rich is what Dusty Baker might call a broken dude. (I'm not sure he's ever used that exact phrase but I know he likes to say "dude," and frankly, so do I.)

Early in his career, the guy used to throw four or five pitches; in 2009, the Cubs put him on a strict fastball-and-change-up-only diet to keep his arm healthy. You know how well that worked.

Throws two pitches? Can't go more than six (or really, five) innings? Gets a TONNNNN of strikeouts? This doesn't exactly sound like a starting pitcher to me.

But Harden will insist on being treated in free agency like a starter, putting him out of the Cubs' price range as far as I'm concerned.

On a personal note, I've found Rich Harden's short-lived Cubs career to be an exciting one. I was thrilled when we got him; I was blown away by his double-digit strikeout games at the end of last year.

I was really excited when we got him, as I thought it sent a positive message to fans (our response to the CC deal). And the crap we gave up for him was... well, crap (Sean Gallagher, Eric Patterson, Matt Murton and Josh Donaldson -- do you miss ANY of those guys?).

But as cool as it is to watch a guy get 10 Ks in 5 IP, those outings always force you to worry about innings 6 through 9, which is something you really don't want to do every time out. So I'm with Jimmy H. on this one here.

Thanks for the memories, Richie. As far as I'm concerned, you can come back and pitch the ninth for the Cubs any time you want.

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Let us speak of who is out

I guess Milton Bradley is out, after all.


The time is coming, and soon, when we will all have nothing else better to do but to sit here and figure out what Jim Hendry needs to do before next April.  I am making a promise to all here, today:


I will never again stump, rail on, beg or otherwise endorse the acquisition of a player for the Cubs.


The reasons are simple: I suck at it, because I don't "scout" the rest of the league.  See, I loved playing baseball as a kid, and I loved watching it as a kid.  Since then, I don't play much baseball, and I also don't watch much baseball.  I only watch baseball games that involve the Cubs, so the only experience I have in seeing 'other' players is when they hit against Cubs pitching, or pitch against Cubs hitting.  In most cases, this tends to reflect on opposing players more favorably than they deserve to be. 


In my mind, the most valuable players in the league are Hunter Pence, Ryan Ludwick, and Jayson Werth.  They just wear our ass out.  Oh, and PooHoles.  Can't forget him.  When I go look at their stats, they're not the best players in the league, not by a long shot.  Could have fooled me.


What I will do this winter is talk about who should go.  It appears that Cubs management is going to go ahead and choke back the $21 million they still owe Bradley.  It also appears they have no desire to bring back Rich Harden.  Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, Big Z, Randy Wells, they're all gonna take their turns.  Tom Gorzellany and Jeff Samardzija will make starts before the season ends.  Lou appears to be done with Harden. 


Rich has been quite healthy, for him, this year, still logs lots of strikeouts, is still hard to hit, and still has an ERA of 4, which is league average.  So why is Lou through with him?  Could be the low number of innings pitched per average start, a Harden start automatically means a busy night for the bullpen.  Could be whispers of the type of salary he expects for 2010?  Or, according to several comments made by beatwriters, that Harden finishes third (a distant third, but still) in the Most Crazy category in the clubhouse behind Bad Milton and Zambrano.  The writers do not elaborate on the basis behind their ranking, outside of the conclusion that he only likes to pitch when it is dark and cold, a conclusion that I always considered to lack intellectual rigor.


But, if you're going out to buy a Cubs jersey today, steer clear of the #40, unless it is on super-mega-closeout-clearence.  And, even then, steer clear.  Nothing dorkier than wearing jerseys of ex-Cubs, unless they are retired numbers like 10, 14, 23, 26 or 31. 

Gamecast: September 1st vs. Astros - No. 5 Starter

GameCastBrian Moehler (8-9, 5.26 ERA) vs. Randy Wells (9-7, 3.06 ERA)

Story Lines

The Cubs are still playing bad, but lets take a look at the fifth part of our series looking at the 2010 Chicago Cubs.

Starting Pitcher - No. 5 Starter (??????????)

Contract 2009: 7 Million

Contract 2010: ????????

Stats 2009: 8-8, 4.19 ERA in 129 innings. 152/58 K/BB with a 1.29 WHIP

The big question is who is the fifth starter in the Cubs rotation. Granted, Randy Wells is really that guy this year, the Cubs don't have a 5th pitcher for the next season. Do the Cubs resign Rich Harden or do they let Sean Marshall have another shot at starting? Harden will probably be better, but of course there are health concerns there, and Marshall has been up and down.

If the Cubs sign Harden to a one-year deal it could be about 10 million, so the Cubs might be less than willing to give that kind of money.

Running Totals
2010 Payroll:
44.8 Million (4 Starting Pitchers)
2010 Average: 12.2 Million a player

Who's Hot

Anybody playing the Cubs.

Who's Not

The Cubs

Conclusions

The Cubs have been just about impossible to watch this season, and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. Here's hoping for a change of luck tonight.

Game Recap: Cubs 3, Phillies 4 - This one's on Lou.

Last night's game was another one of those playoff-type contests, the kind of game that reveals the true identity of the team you're rooting for.

The offense scratched out a decent number of runs against a solid starter and decent bullpen--and in the postseason, you're sometimes gonna need to find a way to win with just three runs scored. Those runs scored on good situational hitting rather than pure mashing, on a couple of timely singles with runners in scoring position (one of which had been bunted over), along with a sacrifice fly.

Maybe you disagree with me, but in last night's game, I myself can't blame the offense. Happ, Park, Madson and Lidge are all quality (except for maybe the last guy--who we scored on), and we still managed to plate a few runs.

(As for Walker, Eyre, and Durbin, perhaps we should have come through with one run at some point, but then again this game should never have gone into extras. More on that in a minute.)

Then there's the Cubs' pitching, starting with the starting.

If anyone's whining about the two runs Rich Harden allowed, then those people are just plain stoopid. Richie had a no-hitter going for a good while, walked the #8-hitter (kinda dumb but whatever) and then gave up a homer to Jimmy Rollins. Look, the Phillies have a good offense; they're gonna score runs. I'll take 2 ER in 7 innings every time out.

That brings us to the bullpen. And to that end, I've really got just one question.

When your set-up man walks a guy and hits a batter, and the opponent has three consecutive lefties due up, how do you not get your LOOGY warmed up the moment the HBP happens?

Of course, Lou left Carlos in, and we all know what happened.

As for letting Kevin Gregg pitch two innings, if you check his game log on a site like Yahoo! Sports you'll see that he's actually done it before this season. It's hard to blame Lou for trusting Gregg there.

But for pulling Harden on one of his good nights after just 87 pitches? And for leaving Marmol in, against a lefty, after his having demonstrated to everyone everywhere that he didn't have any idea where the ball was going last night? Those decisions are a bit more questionable.

So once again, we see what this team really is: an offense that might score two or three, but certainly not five or six runs against quality pitching; a starting rotation with some great arms; a bullpen with some questionable ones; and a manager that doesn't know how to manage those relievers.

We're running out of time here, guys.

Go Cubs.

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Nationals 2 -- As They Should

Cubs win
All game photos courtesey of Yarbage
This was a "formula" win for the Cubs.

Good starting pitching, plus timely hitting, plus a little power, plus a shutdown bullpen, wins games. Most of the time, you only need a few of those things to win the game. Tonight, the Cubs had it all.
Harden
Rich Harden was in top shape this evening, reminding us all of exactly the type of talent we acquired last year. Remember all those double digit strikeout games from last season? This one wasn't quite that good (only seven Ks), but pair that with no walks and only three hits, and you've got yourself a great start.
Pick-Off
On top of that, each of the mainstay relievers (Guzman, Marmol, Gregg) came in to pitch the 7th, 8th, and 9th respectively, and took care of business.  Particularly exciting was a Marmol pickoff play in the 8th.  Am I the only one who gets nervous when a reliever with erratic control tosses the ball haphhazardly to the first baseman?
Sam Fuld
On the hitting side, a couple of two-out RBI (one each from Riot and ReJo) helped get the Cubs in front. After that, a scrappy ninth put the game away.

I know he only had one at-bat tonight, but I'm gonna give my Gold Star on Offense to Sam Fuld, for finding a way to cross home plate yet again. Do you realize this kid has taken over 95% of the pitches thrown to him outside of the zone? It's unbelievable!

Great game, much needed win. Go Cubs!

Game Recap: Cubs 3, Pirates 1 - Looks like they can win close ones after all


Cubs win
That was more like the Rich Harden we remember.

On a day in which the Chicago Cubs could've been hurdled by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the standing, Rich Harden stood up and delivered 7 strong innings, minus one blip in the 5th in which he loaded the bases and surrendered a run before escaping. Harden was then relieved by Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg, both of whom delivered hitless, walkeless, scoreless 8th and 9th innings for the Cubs. Apparently 1-2-3 innings are so rare with those guys that it bares mentioning in this recap.

Offensively the Cubs were able to collect 7 hits and draw 2 walks, with multi-hit days coming from Milton Bradley and Jake Fox. How about Fox, by the way? Two weeks ago he was a pinch hitter whose defensive skills were so terrible that the Cubs couldn't possibly think of him in a starting role. Except now he's holding down the fort at third (and whether his defensive skills are on par with Keith Moreland, Ron Cey, or a cardboard box he hasn't cost the Cubs any games over where) while batting .347.

Speaking of getting hits, Ryan Theriot knocked his 7th homerun of the year last night. Before this season Theriot had 7 career homeruns, so naturally he's on steroids. I wonder what Colin thinks about him these days?

The Cubs remain within striking distance of first place. It's probably wrong to expect a sweep, but a series win would be huge considering that the Cubs play their next two sets against two of the three teams ahead of them in the standings. It's not too late to go on a rampage. Another win today would be heee-yuuuuuge.

Is Harden actually hurt?

Today Rich Harden was placed on the 15 day DL retroactive to Monday due to back spasms.  Given Harden's injury history some would cringe and others would start complaining about curses, but honestly, who's to say that he is actually hurt? 

Hear me out on this...                                                                                          

I think that he probably isn't actually hurt, but instead is getting a little bit of rest as we reach the end of the first quarter of the season.  It's a good time for the team to give him a start or two off with Marshall and Wells pitching pretty well.  Even though the Cubs have recently lost a few games in a row, it was because of their offense not their pitching. 

Putting Harden on the DL also delays any major roster move that may need to be made and gives Hendry an opportunity to try to move Cotts or Heilman.  This was probably about the best move the Cubs could have made at this time and I think that it is going to end up being good for them in the long run.

What this may end up doing also is aiding the team in potentially resigning Harden to a one or two year deal at the end of the year for much cheaper than if he stayed healthy all year long.  If Harden was able to prove that he was at 100% for an entire season, especially in a career year, he would probably have a ton of potential suitors, but now a lot of teams may stay away.  So good move Cubbies! This is probably going to benefit you more than you know!

2009 Player Previews - Rich Harden

Rich HardenQuick Links
Wow, that was fast
Reactions to the Harden deal from around the web
Rich Harden, the morning after
2008 Season Recap - Rich Harden

We've all been warned about the end times. In fact, this blog is all about the coming Apocalypse. Let's review, we know that there are horsemen involved (see Kentucky), times of drought (see California), famine (see Africa), war (see Iraq), despair (see 2007 and 2008 Cubs' post-seasons), a dragon (see Kozuke Fukudome), and even a pregnant lady (my boss is due in late April).

The one thing we're missing is the anti-christ. Now follow me here as I go all Da Vinci code on you... every one's always assumed the anti-christ was literally an anti Christ, but we also all assumed that Jesus was child-less until we got a good look at a painting done by a Ninja Turtle hundreds of years after the fact. No, the "anti-christ" is a word play. Christ was the messiah, so what we're looking for is actually an anti-messiah.

Let's think about other 'messiahs' in recent memory. There's David Koresh, Kerry, Sammy, Dusty, and Marky Franchise. None of them worked out very well, but let's take a closer look at 'The Franchise'. Massively talented, fragile, terribly over-hyped, relied upon year after year of disappointment.

It seems to me that we have a guy on the roster who is a bit of an anti-Mark. Massively talented? Yup. Fragile? Check! Over-hyped? Not too badly... perhaps just hyped. Relied upon to the detriment of the team? Not yet! That's so Anti!

Don't you see it? This is totally as clear as the plot of the Da Vinci Code (and that was an international best-seller). Rich Harden is the 'anti-Mark' which is totally the anti-messiah, which is totally the anti-christ, which is totally the final missing piece in our end-times jigsaw puzzle... does that make me Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown's long lost child that's been protected by a secret society since birth? Yes, yes it does.

So now, it's settled. Rich Harden is the one that will usher in the Apocalypse (which we know happens only after the Cubs win the World Series). And why not? While he's got an injury history that's slightly less impressive than Mark Prior's, he did start 12 games for us last year, winning 5, losing 1, and posting a 1.77 ERA. Can you imagine the hype if Jeff Samardzija had posted those numbers?

As for this Spring, Harden has been limited in his appearances. He's started thrice averaging 3 innings per appearance... and his numbers show it. His Spring ERA is a plump 7.71, but he's only walked 5. Harden is a control pitcher. The stuff will get better as he gets more innings underneath his belt, but he's already got the control working for him.

What's even more amazing is that most Cubs fans have Harden penciled in as the #4 starter... but he's got Ace stuff when he pitches. (Again, massively talented, but not really being counted on as some sort of Cubby-messiah.)

So as to a conclusion. Well, it's what you knew when we started this column:
#1: The Cubs will win the World Series this year.
#2: Rich Harden will be a big part of it (unless he gets hurt and then #1 doesn't happen).
#3: I'm the long lost son of Mordecai Three Finger Brown.

2008 Season Recap - Rich Harden

Imagine for a moment that you're watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Indy and his crew have made it past the natives and returned the Crystal Skull to it's lair. They carefully place it where it belongs... and nothing happens.

Just like an Indiana Jones movie needs fireworks to come to its proper conclusion, so too does a baseball season.

In early July, hours after the Brewers traded for C.C. Sabathia, Jim Hendry acquired the final key to the greatest Cubs team since the inception of radio. Hendry sent Matt Murton, Eric Patterson, and Josh Donaldson to Oakland in return for Chad Gaudin and Rich Harden.

My initial Harden trade evaluation was that the Cubs had probably gotten the better of the deal, but the health risk that Harden presented was seismic.

Fortunately, Harden stayed healthy and started 12 games down the stretch, racking up a nasty 1.77 ERA, a .97 WHIP, and winning 5 games. He was everything we expected in the regular season, but his only post-season start was a poor one. He recorded only 13 outs while allowing 5 hits, 3 walks, and 3 earned runs.

Still, despite a lack of control, Harden kept the Cubs in the game, a habit we saw consistently during the late summer stretch. The playoff start was unfortunate, but I'm of the opinion that it just increases the likelihood that his next one will be better. (For a player of his caliber to perform poorly in one start would indicate a better start later on.)

So, after the season, I think the initial assessment is still valid. Harden's a high-ceiling starter who can and will contribute tremendously to the Cubs success going forward, provided that he stays healthy. The future looks bright with him in the rotation, and if the Cubs can some how add Peavy, we're talking a 1-2-3 of Zambrano, Peavy, and Harden.

Rich Harden
Rich Harden delivers a pitch against the Florida Marlins.
Image courtesy of The Cubdom Photo Gallery

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