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View Full Version : The difference between Harang and Claussen



M2
05-25-2006, 10:10 AM
We witnessed something remarkable last season, something we Reds fans haven't seen much of in our lifetimes. Aaron Harang turned the corner from apprentice to workhorse. He learned his craft well enough, honed his stuff well enough and got into the best shape of his life and he stepped up his game.

It's immensely hard to do. The dirty secret of taking your lumps is that most guys don't survive the beatdown. They can't make the jump. Harang did and he's become a model of the working class pitcher (no glory, he just does his job).

There was hope from many entering this season that Brandon Claussen could follow in his footsteps. Their minor league numbers were similar:

Harang - 516.2 IP, 3.36 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.05 K/9, 0.56 HR/9
Claussen - 633 IP, 3.38 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 9.44 K/9, 0.50 HR/9

Harang's almost exactly a year older Claussen and Claussen's 2005 numbers look a lot like Harang's 2004 numbers (it should be noted Claussen was more than a bit ERA lucky last season):

Harang 2004 - 161 IP, 4.86 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 6.99 K/9, 1.45 HR/9
Claussen 2005 - 166.2 IP, 4.21 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 6.53 K/9, 1.30 HR/9

Yet the difference is that Harang was a guy passing through those numbers on his way to being something else, something better. It's beginning to become clear that Claussen is a guy firmly affixed to those numbers. He's not getting better. He hasn't been able to elevate his game to the next level despite the fact that he's now 27 years-old with just about 300 IP under his belt.

Brandon still could take the step forward. It's not like he had to do it at the start of this season or it'll never happen, but he isn't giving much reason to hold onto that sort of faith. He's giving up too many flyballs (0.82 G/F), too many baserunners (1.49 WHIP) and too much power (1.85 HR/9). One big difference I've noticed is that Harang can beat you with a two-strike fastball and Claussen usually can't. It makes it tough to mix up your pitching routine and keep hitters off balance.

Claussen's struggles should give us an appreciation for how much much progress Harang was able to make. It also underlines how difficult pitching development can be. It moves at a glacial pace. You can spend years bringing an arm along and he still might not be able to put everything together.

If Brandon Claussen had been able to step up this season, the Reds would have had more Jeckyll than Hyde in the rotation for the first time in ages. Unfortunately, he's still a #4-5 starter (more #5 starter this year). It's better than having outright arsonists like Dave Williams and Eric Milton take the mound, but Claussen doesn't look like he's going to be the kind of guy who can propel a team forward.

TRF
05-25-2006, 10:20 AM
Man, I was going to start a similar thread.

In ST I started one asking which Reds player needs to step up the most for this team to compete. My choice was Claussen. At this point I have more faith in the Lizard than Brandon. And that isn't a knock on Elizardo at all. But for a guy with BC's frame, he should be thriving. Is it conditioning? I don't think so, dude looked ripped in ST. Makeup? maybe. He could certainly take a cue from Arroyo on that end. finally, is it stuff? My thinking is this may be the biggest factor coupled with his idea of how to pitch.

I'm not calling him a headcase or any garbage like that, but I get the feeling he doesn't realize that before Arroyo got to Cincinnati, he was the #2 starter.

flyer85
05-25-2006, 10:30 AM
Sometimes having an extra 3-4 on your fastball can make a huge difference. Harang seems to have mastered command of his pitches and the ability to keep hitters off balance(this is the one that I believe is the hangup for Claussen)

Another point on Harang that is probably not quantifiable in any way is what kind of an advantage does Harang get from his height combined with his over the top delivery. With his delivery and short stride he is pitching on more of a downward plane that just about any pitcher in baseball. How much does that help? We don't really know the answer other than to say that it is a positive.

Johnny Footstool
05-25-2006, 10:43 AM
Claussen has a Wang Chung fastball--it tops out around 86.

lollipopcurve
05-25-2006, 01:25 PM
Excellent post, M2. The statistical comparisons are striking, especially Harang 04 vs Claussen 05. You've been framing this issue very consistently over time.

I think Claussen's stuff must have suffered some permanent damage from his elbow injury. Early reports were that he was coming back from TJ very quickly with higher-than-expected velocity, but we haven't seen many fastballs out of the 80s. He was a strikeout guy in the minors, with a 90+ fastball and supposedly a very nasty slider. As you note, he doesn't really have the K pitch anymore. The slider looks to me like a mix pitch, not an out pitch. I haven't seen him much this year, but judging from what I saw in 05 he was breaking out an occasionally effective changeup. I think he may be in the midst of remaking himself, and his working age may be more like 25 than 27, given his time lost to TJ. I think the Reds are wise to stick with him to see if he can hone an improved mix, maybe even gaining an increment or two on his stuff. He doesn't have the frame Harang does, obviously, and that's a limitation, but neither does he have quite the same amount of experience, and chances are he will get a little stronger and wiser with time. He seems to compete hard, which I like, and he's a lefty, so maybe extra patience is required.

NJReds
05-25-2006, 01:31 PM
Jamie Moyer didn't have a real good year until he was 33, and had his best years between 33-39. Perhaps Claussen needs to look at how Moyer found his groove.

registerthis
05-25-2006, 01:35 PM
Claussen has a Wang Chung fastball--it tops out around 86.

:laugh:

How long have you been holding onto that one, Johnny?

Johnny Footstool
05-25-2006, 01:38 PM
:laugh:

How long have you been holding onto that one, Johnny?

I just grew that one this morning.

Puffy
05-25-2006, 01:53 PM
Claussen has a Wang Chung fastball--it tops out around 86.


:laugh:

I love you Johnny Cakes!

M2
05-25-2006, 01:56 PM
I think he may be in the midst of remaking himself, and his working age may be more like 25 than 27, given his time lost to TJ. I think the Reds are wise to stick with him to see if he can hone an improved mix, maybe even gaining an increment or two on his stuff. He doesn't have the frame Harang does, obviously, and that's a limitation, but neither does he have quite the same amount of experience, and chances are he will get a little stronger and wiser with time. He seems to compete hard, which I like, and he's a lefty, so maybe extra patience is required.

Certainly the team shouldn't chuck him to the wayside like Dave Williams. As a back-of-the-rotation guy, he's got uses and certainly if he hangs around for a few years he could give the club a career year one of these seasons.

More guile will be a key to any future improvement for him. Harang had the size and ability to go the power route.

Johnny Footstool
05-25-2006, 02:03 PM
:laugh:

I love you Johnny Cakes!

Dammit, Puffy!

Puffy
05-25-2006, 02:17 PM
Dammit, Puffy!

I've been waiting a week to use that - God bless Vito, poor dead Vito!

VR
05-25-2006, 02:33 PM
M2, nice post.

I really think Claussen is a decent 4/5 guy right now, but could move into a solid #3 we all want him to be.
A few odd stats on the guy. In the last three years, his ops against looks like this....

vs lefties
(04)1.121 (05) .764 (06) .385

vs righties
(04) .778 (05) .785 (06) .938

What drives me nuts about him is lack of efficiency in pitch count. Career wise he over 17 an inning, which ain't gonna get it done. When he has his control, he is a very good pitcher, but doesn't have the stuff to compensate when his control is off. Obviously he needs to develop something to get righties out as well, or teams will be overstacking against him continuously.

He's got rampant nibble-itis that runs the pitch counts up, and throws more
0-2, 1-2 crap pitches than anyone on the staff (now that Wilson is gone)

I really wish he'd watch Arroyo a lot more. His pace, confidence, demeanor, and willingness to challenge hitters consistently are traits that would benefit Brandon greatly. When Arroyo has you 0-2, he's not likely to 'waste' a pitch on you.

Brandon just seems too timid out there, and hitters dig that.

REDREAD
05-25-2006, 02:58 PM
More guile will be a key to any future improvement for him. Harang had the size and ability to go the power route.

I recall reading during spring training of 2005, that Harang really worked hard over the winter, that he saw a huge opportunity with the Reds and wanted to seize it. At first, I dismissed it, because you get stories like that every spring. But I think Harang really did it. If I recall correctly, he added a little velocity from his workouts. Harang is a great story. He seems to have the classic work-hard-and-exceed-everyone's-expectations success story.

At the time of the Guillen trade, I bet 95% of the board thought he was fifth starter material at best (including me).

vaticanplum
05-25-2006, 03:09 PM
At the time of the Guillen trade, I bet 95% of the board thought he was fifth starter material at best (including me).

It's too bad we weren't also proven wrong about Dave Williams. That would have been nice.

CTA513
05-25-2006, 03:19 PM
If Claussen continues to pitch like has so far this year he might give up more homeruns than Milton.

:eek:

Aronchis
05-25-2006, 03:39 PM
The difference is TJ robbed Brandon away of his abilities and he still hasn't come to terms with them. That is the only difference. Harang's problem before 2005 was that he didn't max his abilities by getting in the best shape possible. When he did, his arm strength improved a bit as did the mistakes he could get away with bad location.

Claussen just didn't lose his arm strength on his fastball, but also his slider. He has then had to incorporate a changeup while making his "new" breaking pitch major league worthy and it isn't there yet(will it ever be?). Pitching smarter would also help, he can't just plugging away fastballs anymore though he tries that on so many occassions, it gets him fried.

Two different situations. One man was under performing due to lack of work ethic, the other because he got it taken away.

KronoRed
05-25-2006, 05:03 PM
Jamie Moyer didn't have a real good year until he was 33, and had his best years between 33-39. Perhaps Claussen needs to look at how Moyer found his groove.
What do we do with him till then?

I'm disappointed in Brandon, but not surprised, I don't usually hold yankee prospects in high regard, and considering he'd had arm surgery before we got him, this is about what I expected.

Caveat Emperor
05-25-2006, 10:40 PM
The difference between Harang and Claussen is in the velocity and command. Harang is the better pitcher in both of those two categories and is able to effectively retire hitters because of it.

Harang throws his fastball for strikes and at two different "velocity levels": a 91-93 MPH level and an 88-90 MPH level. It effecitvely alters the timing of the hitter enough to turn solid contact into the "just missed" variety that results in fouled off strikes or weaker fly ball outs. His velocity is sufficient that he can come inside on hitters and throw fastballs on the inside corner without worrying about getting turned on. If you notice, the vast majority of Harang's first pitches are fastball strikes on the inside corner at 90+ MPH. That is something that Claussen simply lacks the velocity to do. His fastball touches 89 on good nights, and he doesn't have the ability to dial it up or down effectively.

Harang also possesses exceptional command, able to throw pitches to spots and hit his spots consistently. Claussen is wild both in and out of the zone, resulting in a lot of high-pitch count innings and short 5-6 inning outings. Claussen routinely falls behind hitters early in ballgames and is forced to throw hitters count pitches to try and battle back, resulting in higher pitch count ABs and better pitches for batters to hit. Since Claussen is never going to get his velocity back, this is the area he simply must get better at: hitting spots down in the zone and painting the corners with strikes while mixing in breaking balls and off-speed pitches to alter the timing of the hitter. Off speed pitches and breaking balls simply aren't effective if the fastballs aren't working and when you're behind in the count.

I still maintain (as I did earlier in the off-season) that the answer for Claussen will come with more innings and more experience. He's a work in progress and because his success will come with more innings, his prime will fall a lot later in his career than Harangs has.

Just my observations.

cincinnati chili
05-25-2006, 11:22 PM
M2, This is a top notch post as is often the case from you.

I think Aronchis might be onto something: Claussen's surgery may have lowered his ceiling. I don't have enough medical knowledge to know if that theory has any validity, but it sounds plausible enough.

I'd still love to get Brad Kullman and Leland Maddox in a room shot up full of truth syrum, and find out how much they really expected out of Harang and Valentine. I still would guess that the latter was a big disappointment and the former was a big pleasant surprise.

GridironGrace
05-25-2006, 11:29 PM
Claussens gonna be tough in time.. He's already a SOLID SP, but this time next season You'll be puttin him in this post in the "harang" spot, and We'll see Rameriz or someone else in Claussens spot, and Harang will be the ACE.

Get Claussen pitching like harang is now, and we have a very very nice 1, 2 , 3 SP

:)

CTA513
05-26-2006, 01:23 AM
Claussens gonna be tough in time.. He's already a SOLID SP, but this time next season You'll be puttin him in this post in the "harang" spot, and We'll see Rameriz or someone else in Claussens spot, and Harang will be the ACE.

Get Claussen pitching like harang is now, and we have a very very nice 1, 2 , 3 SP

:)

:laugh:

TRF
05-26-2006, 10:09 AM
Claussens gonna be tough in time.. He's already a SOLID SP, but this time next season You'll be puttin him in this post in the "harang" spot, and We'll see Rameriz or someone else in Claussens spot, and Harang will be the ACE.

Get Claussen pitching like harang is now, and we have a very very nice 1, 2 , 3 SP

:)

Problem is, Elizardo has already lapped Claussen in terms of performance this year. One thing the Lizard has is OUTSTANDING command. I wish he had a little more oomph on his fastball, but he doesn't waste a lot of pitches.

KronoRed
05-26-2006, 05:20 PM
He's already a SOLID SP
Not really, right now he's a younger cheaper Milton