Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Farewell, Lucas Harrell, we hardly knew ye...

(The 2012 version, that is...)

The Astros traded Lucas Harrell to the Diamondbacks for a PTBNL or cash considerations.  My guess is that the Astros are tossing up between Didi Gregorious or Chris Owings.  Undoubtedly, whomever they get would then be flipped to the Angels for Mike Trout.  Or not.

Lucas Harrell demonstrated himself to have some serious talent with his mid-90's power sinker, and juicy ground ball rates.  His best season was 2012, when he posted a 3.76 ERA, 6.5 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 0.60 HR/9 and 57.2% GB rate.  All that was worth a Fangraphs WAR of 2.6, with an FIP of 3.75, indicating that the ERA was no fluke.  That year, his record was 11-11 in 32 starts, which was an excellent record in a terrible Astros team.  He was probably the bright spot.

Prior to that, 2010 represented Harrell's first ML action with the White Sox, where he posted a 4.88 ERA / 5.04 FIP in 24 innings.  He appeared in 8 games, and started 3, earning one win.  His K/9 was 5.63, BB/9 of 6.38 and HR/9 or 0.75.

He appeared in a total of 9 games in 2011, pitching 18 innings with an ERA or 4.50 and FIP of 2.86.  The second of those teams was the Astros, after he was claimed on waivers from the White Sox.  His K/9 in a small sample was 7.50, and BB/9 was 4.00.

Since his excellent 2012 campaign, Harrell has struggled.  2013 was a disaster, with a 6 win and league-leading 17 loss record, and an ERA of 5.86.  That wasn't a fluke, as he regressed in all areas from 2012, with a 5.21 K/9, 5.15 BB/9 and 1.17 HR/9.  BABIP in 2013 was only 17 points higher than 2012 (.289 versus .306).  Not good.  Lots of hard-hit balls.

And 2014 has been worse, with 12 innings of 9.49 ERA ball, with an equal K/9 and BB/9 rate (6.57) and a worsening HR rate (1.46, albeit in a very small sample).

This pretty much points to the problem with Lucas.  When his walk rate is circa-half of his strikeout rate, he can manage.  But when his walk rate increases, that is a pretty good sign that his command inside the zone also worsens, as his HR/9 rate climbs above 1.  Steve Sparks frequently talked about the problems that Lucas has when he is not pitching ahead in the count, and when he has to come into the zone with a fastball.  He clearly has talent, but he has also managed to have more than his share of battles with management, especially when dropped from the rotation in 2013.

He cleared waivers after being DFA'd after three starts for the 2014 Astros.  He does not occupy a 40-man roster spot.

Despite his 2012 WAR of 2.6, his career WAR sits at 1.9  He has been worth -1.0 WAR since 2012.

Lucas, this is farewell, rather than goodbye, especially given the fact that the Diamondbacks and Rockies have been our Official Sworn Enemies since 2013.  We may see you back at MMP at some stage soon.