Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Annyong, Lucas Harrell

Fans of Arrested Development (1:51 in this video) may randomly happen to know that "annyong" is Korean for "hello".  Lucas Harrell may need to know this, because he has recently signed with a Korean team, the LG Twins.  I wonder whether Harrell knew that he would eventually become a baseballing Twin, but he probably didn't predict that it would be in Korea.  Jim Adduci, formerly of the Texas Rangers, is also going to Korea, but playing for a different team (Lotte Giants).

When we last checked in with Lucas Harrell, he was doing OK in Reno, having thrown 44 frames with an ERA of 3.89 in an offence-friendly environment.  Things went a little south from there, because he finished his season - and possibly his baseball career in North America - at 106 innings at an ERA of 5.15.  His WHIP was a hefty 1.800, by virtue of him giving up more than a hit an inning (115) and walking more than he struck out (77 walks versus 66 strikeouts).  He was released by the Diamondbacks prior to the end of the season.

Astros fans may think that his career cratered after 2012, but really, it was 2012 that was the outlier.  It was the only year where he had a reasonable FIP (3.75) in which he pitched more than 18 innings.  The FIP's in the other years where he threw greater than 18 innings were 5.04 (2010, in 24IP) and 5.42 (2013, in 153IP).  In smaller samples, he had a great 2011 (2.86 FIP in 18IP) and a disastrous 2014 (5.97 FIP in 12IP).  Astros fans remember 2014 altogether too well.

As 2013 slid into 2014, and Harrell's struggles worsened, he developed a less-than-stellar reputation.  I don't put too much emphasis on clubhouse stories like those linked, because repeatedly throwing meatballs and getting continuously lit-up in the biggest possible baseball stage would be a severe test of anyone's character.  Just ask Mark Appel.  However, there was a time when pundits thought that the Astros were going to turn a waiver-wire acquisition into some pretty good players.  (As an aside, check out the first comment of the second link.)  However, Harrell was never going to be parlayed into Lucas Giolito, no matter what Jeff Luhnow hoped or thought, especially by mid-2013.

In Luhnow's defence, he was probably right to ask the world for him, as trading Harrell would have been difficult decision for the Astros prior to - or even during - his 2013 cratering.  At the time, they had no real rotation, and desperately needed innings eaters with upside.  In Harrell, they had a cheap and durable groundballer who pumped gas in the low- to mid-90's with pretty decent movement on his pitches, and at that stage, the Astros had few other rotation options.  Thanks to Scott Feldman, Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh, things look a little different a year-or-so down the road.

Those who are cynical with regards to the Astros' rebuild will probably see the Harrell non-trade and subsequent value-less exit as a sign of how much of a joke the Front Office is.  Astros supporters may see Harrell as a lottery ticket that had most of the winning numbers, but fell just short of a jackpot.  But really, this is elite sport, and in all elite sport, the margin between success and failure is razor thin.  Harrell just happened to straddle that thin line, existing on both sides at various times of his career.

And in the thin line between success and failure in sports, all sorts of awful things can happen.  At least Harrell gets to continue his career - albeit not with the Twins team that he may have thought - and he will continue to be handsomely remunerated for it.