Harden as a Closer?

I mentioned this on the last ESPN 1040 blog update when I reported that the Rays are apparently interested in Rich Harden. There is no need for him as a starting pitcher as the club already has enough depth there, but there are plenty of job openings in the bullpen. Harden is known as a three true-outcome pitcher: he either strikes batters out, walks them, or walks off the mound injured. Since his durability is a problem and his endurance has never been great because of high pitch counts (see Kazmir 2008-2009), it would seem a natural fit for Harden to transition into a relief role.

The table below shows his splits in his career by pitch count range.

I Split PA HR BB SO SO/BB BA OBP SLG OPS
Pitch 1-25 872 15 85 234 2.75 .198 .281 .294 .574
Pitch 26-50 936 30 92 236 2.57 .225 .305 .384 .689
Pitch 51-75 882 14 107 201 1.88 .218 .317 .318 .635
Pitch 76-100 726 27 85 153 1.80 .262 .355 .447 .802
Pitch 101+ 150 2 22 34 1.55 .220 .336 .339 .674
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original TableGenerated 12/7/2010.

Now, compare that to the splits for the departing and popular closer Rafael Soriano:

I Split PA HR BB SO SO/BB BA OBP SLG OPS
Pitch 1-25 1363 32 102 377 3.70 .191 .258 .328 .586
Pitch 26-50 130 2 13 32 2.46 .171 .254 .248 .502
Pitch 51-75 49 0 1 6 6.00 .167 .184 .229 .413
Pitch 76-100 25 4 2 5 2.50 .391 .440 1.000 1.440
Pitch 101+ 7 1 0 2 .429 .429 1.000 1.429
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/7/2010.

Color me extremely interested as long as Harden is willing to listen to the role and willing to take a one-year deal heavily based on incentives.

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About Jason Collette

Writer/Analyst
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