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OnBaseMachine
03-22-2008, 03:01 AM
Reds right-hander Aaron Harang has quietly developed into one of NL's best starters
Posted: Friday Mar 21, 2008 4:20 PM

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) -Aaron Harang got the sign from Javier Valentin, went into that smooth, compact delivery and let it fly.

Pop! The ball smacked the catcher's mitt. Pirates outfielder Nate McLouth craned his neck and watched it go past.

Strike one.

Nice way to open the game. And the Cincinnati Reds' top starter was just getting started.

The next pitch was fouled back. The next whizzed past McLouth, who gave it one of those "what-was-that?'' looks, then headed back to the bench. Three pitches, three strikes, one out, just like that.

Harang wasn't messing around Friday in his second-to-last appearance before opening day. His first five pitches were strikes. He had Pirates swinging at his lights-out pitch, the low-and-away slider that often gets slapped weakly on the ground.

Nothing new here.

Over the past two seasons, the 29-year-old pitcher has been among the NL's best. He led the league in victories and strikeouts in 2006, and followed with another 16-win, 200-strikeout season last year, when a leaky bullpen cost him a shot at 20 victories.

"He's probably one of the most unheralded Cy Young candidates in baseball,'' manager Dusty Baker said Friday. "It doesn't seem to bother him.''

Little does.

Harang is one of the most mellow players on the team. Nothing seems to unsettle him. He's easily approachable in the clubhouse, even on days when he's starting - a time when most other pitchers try to block everything out of mind.

"He's the same way off the mound as he is on it,'' Baker said. "He's like a lot of good hitters. With a real good hitter, you can't tell if he's about to swing or take.''

The most predictable thing about Harang is what happens on the first pitch to just about every batter.

"Strike one,'' Baker said.

It goes back to his days at San Diego State, where he met current Padres manager Bud Black, a former Aztec pitcher who played 15 years in the majors. He got a little tutoring on the art of pitching.

"The first time I really talked to Bud Black, the first question he asked me was: What's the best pitch in baseball?'' Harang said. "It caught me off guard. I said 'fastball' or something like that, and he was like, 'No, it's strike one. It's the best pitch in baseball.' That's always stuck in the back of my head.''

In the last two seasons, Harang has settled into a pattern of making fast work of hitters. He finishes off batters with a minimum of pitches, allowing him to go deep into games. He led the NL with six complete games and 216 strikeouts in 2006, and tied for the lead with 16 wins.

Despite those numbers, he didn't get a vote for the NL Cy Young. In the award's 50-year history, he's the only pitcher to lead the league in victories and strikeouts and not win it.

Last season, he won 16 games again - the bullpen blew leads for him four times - and finished second in the NL with a career-high 218 strikeouts. This time, he got four votes for the Cy Young.

Harang has compared his numbers with those of the pitchers who got more votes the last two years, and he knows they stack up. He has a theory on why he hasn't gotten more attention.

"You look at it: Cincinnati is not as big a market as LA or Chicago or New York or the Bay area,'' he said. "Of course, more people are going to see that. Those are more national markets for the media. So it's no big deal to me.''

He's more in tune with a smaller circle of observers.

"My teammates know what I'm doing,'' he said. "The opposing hitters on other teams know what I'm doing. They know what to expect when I step on the mound. That's what matters to me.''

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/baseball/mlb/wires/03/21/2010.ap.bbn.reds.harang.0662/

dougdirt
03-22-2008, 03:10 AM
Aaron Harang is my favorite Reds pitcher ever. I honestly think I have seen him pitch 30+ times since he became a Red. He is just methodical out there.

MrCinatit
03-22-2008, 03:29 AM
Harang is kind of boring out there - and that is not an insult.
When a guy becomes "boring", when you almost know as a fan what to expect with each start is when he reaches that unappreciated dominance period. He is not a fist pumper, he doesn't jump around. He simply does his job quite well, and very quietly, then goes back into the dugout and hopes for the best from his bullpen and offense.
If Harang pitched in New York, Boston or one of the other larger cities, he would be hailed as one of the best pitchers in baseball (and probably have a few more wins under his belt). I never want to see the Reds get rid of him, but it would be interesting to see the reaction from other GMs were Wayne to say he was available.

WMR
03-22-2008, 03:40 AM
I asked what sort of a contract Harang could have garnered were he a free agent this past off-season... no one responded... I would think he could get 5 years for 75 million from somebody.

LoganBuck
03-22-2008, 07:59 AM
Harang is kind of boring out there - and that is not an insult.
When a guy becomes "boring", when you almost know as a fan what to expect with each start is when he reaches that unappreciated dominance period. He is not a fist pumper, he doesn't jump around. He simply does his job quite well, and very quietly, then goes back into the dugout and hopes for the best from his bullpen and offense.
If Harang pitched in New York, Boston or one of the other larger cities, he would be hailed as one of the best pitchers in baseball (and probably have a few more wins under his belt). I never want to see the Reds get rid of him, but it would be interesting to see the reaction from other GMs were Wayne to say he was available.

If he is boring you the Reds could add Bailey to the rotation after him, talk about edge of your seat drama.

Tom Servo
03-22-2008, 10:26 AM
I remember people were actually concerned with Harang's spring training and first few starts last year after signing him long term. Don't ever doubt the Harangster.

KronoRed
03-22-2008, 04:17 PM
We'll know he's truly arrived when ESPN mentions him as a target of the yanks and red sox, because the Reds certainly can't have great players :D

coachw513
03-26-2008, 12:24 PM
Harang is so much (to me) like Mario Soto was for the Reds 20 years ago...a bona-fide ace for a mediocre team that never got the national notoriety and respect he deserved...

Hopefully that will change (both the recognition and the team improving)...