Harden hit hard

By Jason Wojciechowski on April 17, 2004 at 12:14 AM

Oakland dropped to 6-3 with last night's loss to the Rangers. The loss also kept the A's from their first series sweep of the year, though they still won the three game set by a 2-1 count.

The tale of the game appears to be an inability to get men home, as they could only turn eight hits, three walks, and two Texas errors into two runs. Most of that inability comes from a complete lack of power: all eight hits were singles. It didn't help that Eric Chavez had a terrible day in the three-hole, hitting into two double plays en route to going 0-4.

Rich Harden was also unimpressive in his first start of the year, giving up six runs on eleven hits in just four innings. I was worried about Harden's mechanics leading to poor control, as he was apparently thrown off track while recovering from some minor shoulder trouble, but that didn't appear to be the problem: he walked just one Ranger, and he threw over 70% of his pitches for strikes (to put that in some context, since strike percentage is one of those stats where I don't think people have a good sense of what's good and bad [unless I'm just projecting, because I don't have a good sense], Tim Hudson, in his gem against the Mariners the other night, threw 67% strikes).

Really, he was just too hittable. The game recap quotes Ken Macha:

"He's around the strike zone, but he left a bunch of breaking balls over the middle of the plate. And the Rangers are swinging the bats well. The key to his success is the quality of his breaking pitches."

This is potentially an issue of Harden overcompensating for his command issues by taking something off his breaking pitches, leaving them flatter, more in the strike zone (since it's just as important to be able to miss with a breaking ball as it is to be able to throw a strike with one), and more hittable.

As nice as Harden's fastball is, he's going to need to have command of his other pitches to live up to his hype.

Apparently, Justin Duscherer made the team and Chad Harville didn't, because Duscherer appeared in this game. One of the two was going to be designated for assignment (and hopefully traded) when Harden was called up, and since it clearly wasn't Duscherer, I guess, like Luis Vizcaino before him, a supposedly promising minor league reliever will be leaving the system. I'm glad Duscherer made the team over Harville anyway, because of his ability to start a game in a pinch. It's been mentioned a few places recently that the swingman role has gone out of style, but Duscherer could make a nice one of those, pitching some long relief, starting some games, and otherwise just making himself useful in different types of situations.

Below, please find the updated A's comparison table.

Mark Redman 2 12 3.75
Ted Lilly 2 10.1 6.97
Arthur Rhodes 5 5 3.60
Keith Foulke 5 7 0.00 ?
Damian Miller ? ? .333 .417 27
Ramon Hernandez ? ? .324 .344 37
Bobby Crosby ? ? .333 .323 36
Miguel Tejada ? ? .359 .371 39
Mark Kotsay ? ? .432 .394 37
Chris Singleton ? ? 0 0 0
Bobby Kielty ? ? .297 .429 37
Terrence Long ? ? .364 .300 11