Thursday, November 26, 2015

Exit Music (For A Player): Will Harris

This is the Exit Music (For A Player) series, reviewing the major components of the 2015 season. Check out other Exit Music (For A Player) posts here

Acquired: Selected off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks, November 2014.

Age: 31; Harris will be 32 next August

Contract Status: Pre-Arbitration; Will be Arbitration-eligible in 2017, won't be a free agent until 2020.

Career: 

Drafted by the Rockies in the 9th Round of the 2006 draft out of LSU, Will Harris posted Ridiculous Numbers in the minors. In 242 appearances, Harris posted a 2.48 ERA/1.14 WHIP with a 3.63 K:BB ratio. In his first two professional seasons in Low-A and Single-A, Harris threw 78.2IP with 58H/11ER, 110K:22BB. While things couldn't go quite as well for Harris after that first impression, he was a low-ERA, high-strikeout guy for the rest of his time in the minors.

He got called up by the Rockies after Edgmer Escalona was put on the 15-Day DL on August 11, 2012. To that point in 2012 Harris had struck out 86 batters with 14 walks in 52IP. That is nuts. His Major League debut came on August 13, at home in Colorado against Milwaukee in the 9th inning with the Rockies leading 9-3. He threw 16 pitches, allowed two hits - one of which was a home run - but the Rockies won 9-6. Two days later he threw 24 pitches to record six perfect outs in a 7-6 win over the same Brewers.

Relievers' numbers are misleading. Throw few innings with a handful of bad results and it looks like the pitcher won some sort of fan contest to get on the 25-Man roster. He gave up four runs on August 29th against the Dodgers, and concluded his season with consecutive 3ER games to end up with an 8.15 ERA and a .922 OPS-against. He was in his Age 27 season.

On April 3, 2013 Harris was selected off waivers by the A's from Colorado. Three days later he was selected off waivers from the Diamondbacks by Oakland. Now a Diamondback, Harris threw 52.2IP in 2013, allowing 50H/17ER, with 53K:15BB. His 2.91 ERA was a touch worse than his 2.74 FIP. Things were better. He held righties to a .277/.338/.420 line - which isn't great, but consider that the previous year he allowed righties a .400/.429/.644 line, and he was worse on the road than he was at Coors.

Things weren't as great in 2014. He only threw 29IP, allowed 27H/14ER, with 35K:9BB for a 4.34 ERA/1.24 WHIP. His K/9 ratio was up from 2013's 9.1 to 2014's 10.9. His BB/9 ratio rose slightly from 2.6 to 2.8. But at Reno in 2014 he threw 45.2IP, allowing 34H/5ER, with 44K:20BB - a 1.97 ERA/1.18 WHIP.

On November 3, 2014 Harris was selected off waivers by the Astros from the Diamondbacks in what appeared to be an attempt to revamp what had recently been a bullpen that could only be qualified as God-Awful/Look-Directly-At-It-And-Your-Face-Will-Melt-Nazi-Indiana-Jones-Bullcrap.

2015:

So whatever. Because Josh Fields was dealing with a groin injury early on in Spring Training, Harris joined a host of new faces in the bullpen: himself, Neshek, Gregerson, et al. He took advantage of his fortune, cruising through April in fairly low-leverage situations - April 12 against the Rangers as an exception, when he was perfect in the 12th and 13th innings with three strikeouts - with 11IP, 2H/0ER, 14K:4BB. Harris didn't give up an earned run until May 6 - his 11th appearance - when the Rangers won in a blowout.

Harris didn't give up his 2nd earned run until June 7, after Harris had made 21 appearances, with 26.2IP, 6H/1ER, 31K:7BB. This is stupid. He had a 0.34 ERA/0.50 WHIP. That is dumb. He allowed a .071/.152/.107 line on an .096 BABIP. This is unsustainable. Almost literally everything he threw went right to an Astro defender. This is unbelievable.

He got some All-Star love. After all, only 22 MLB pitchers had thrown at least 40IP with no games started in the 1st Half of the 2015 season. Harris had thrown 41.1IP, 16H/4ER, with 42K:14BB. Nobody allowed fewer hits. Nobody allowed fewer earned runs. Nobody had a lower ERA.

Harris came out of the All-Star Break with two scoreless appearances and then allowed earned runs in back-to-back outings - taking the loss on my anniversary, July 25, a 2-1 loss at Kansas City that I watched out of the corner of my eye while at dinner with my wife. Still, over the first 20 outings of the 2nd Half, from July 17-September 9, Harris was good - not as Unreal as his 1st Half - 20IP, 18H/5ER, 17K:5BB. .594 OPS-against on a .298 BABIP. In other words, this was a Very Good Relief Pitcher as opposed to the Other-Worldly Relief Pitcher that he was in the 1st Half. We were spoiled by ridiculousness.

Mid- to late-September happened. He took the loss at Anaheim on September 12. He look the loss at Texas on September 14. He took the loss at Anaheim on September 23. Every reliever is allowed a few bad games. Harris had bad games at the time when we fans pulled our hair out at the most intense time. Harris allowed a baserunner in six of his first seven September appearances - multiple baserunners in four of his first five in the month. In the Arlington Chainsaw Massacre in mid-September, Harris left two games in a worse position than when he entered. He picked the worst time to be ineffective. Had it happened in April, we might not have noticed.

But he ended fairly strong! Seven of his last nine regular season appearances were scoreless outings. He threw a perfect outing against the Yankees in the Wild Card game. The Royals then proceeded to kill him. In Game 1 of the ALDS he allowed two hits in 0.2IP, but the Astros won, so whatever. Then Harris lost Game 2, giving up 2H/1ER in 0.2IP. In Game 4, though, this is where Recency Bias kicks in.

With the Astros up 6-2 in the 8th inning of The Game Of Which We Shall Not Speak, Harris allowed a single to left to Alex Rios, a single to center to Alcides Escobar, a line drive to center to Ben Zobrist. Should he have been taken out? It's still 6-2. Double Play still in effect. What do you do? Hinch left him in. Harris allowed a single to left to Lorenzo Cain. When Harris left, it was still 6-3 Astros. Tony Sipp allowed the other three batters Harris/Blind Luck/Destiny let get on base to score.

It was the worst ending to an absolutely fantastic season. You had no faith in Will Harris. I had no faith in Will Harris. With the benefit of distance it's not as bad. We were blinded by Will Harris' excellence in the first half of the season. In other words: regression was a Stone Cold Bitch to Will Harris.

Challengers:

What do you want to hear? That Will Harris sucks? His 87.4% LOB rate was 3rd-best in baseball among relievers with a minimum of 70IP thrown. His 1.90 ERA was belied by a 3.66 FIP/3.31 xFIP. But his 14.8% HR/FB rate was the highest among relievers with 70IP thrown in 2015. Harris didn't get hit often, but when he did he got hit hard. I'd bring him back, if only for his 1st Half.

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