Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Life and Times of Former SP2 Lucas Harrell

Ahhh Lucas Harrell. One of those "chicken s**t into Egyptian cotton" waiver claims by Easy Eddie Wade, on to whom he held too long. Let's go back and reminisce.

The Astros claimed Harrell off of waivers on July 8, 2011 from the White Sox, with whom he had been a 2004 4th Round draft pick. Why? Well, the White Sox weren't 100% sure what to do with him. In 2010 Harrell made his major-league debut and pitched in eight games for Chicago. He started three games, he finished three games, and appeared in relief in the other two without finishing the games, even though every single appearance to that point in his career in the minors had been as a starter. In 2009 he posted a 12-4 record between Double-A and Triple-A with a 3.27 ERA/1.40 WHIP.

Harrell made a spot start for Chicago on July 30, 2010 for his major-league debut. In 6IP, he allowed 4H/1ER, 1K:5BB, throwing 50 of his 98 pitches for strikes in a 6-1 win over Oakland. Sent back down following the game, he came back up on August 28 and got both batters he faced in a 12-9 loss to the Yankees.

He allowed four unearned runs in relief at Detroit on September 7, sporting a healthy 0.84 ERA after 10.2IP career MLB innings. He started the next two games and in 8.1IP allowed 17H/9ER, 6K:5BB.

He allowed one earned run in the remaining three relief appearances in 2010 as the White Sox finished 88-74, six games behind the Twins for 2nd in the AL Central, and seven behind the Yankees for the Wild Card.

In three relief appearances for the White Sox in 2011 (5IP), he allowed 11H/4ER, 5K:1BB, and the White Sox placed him on waivers. Enter the Houston Astros, who claimed him on July 8, 2011. That night the Astros lost 6-3 at Florida (now Miami) to fall to 30-60, 18 games back, with a lineup of Bourn, Angel Sanchez, Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee, Jeff Keppinger, Brett Wallace, Clint Barmes, Carlos Corporan, and Jordan Lyles.

The Lucas Harrell era had begun and things, fam, were truly lit. We wondered which OKC starter's job Harrell was going to take.

Harrell made his Astros debut as a September call-up on September 2. In 5.1IP, he allowed 3H/0ER, 4K:2BB against the Brewers, a game that Milwaukee would of course win 8-2 because Goatpen. He appeared in relief for the next three appearances, allowing 2H/2ER, 3K:4BB in 3.2IP. Whatever, they were about to lose 106 games, so who cared? On September 25, Harrell allowed 7H/5R (3ER), 1K:1BB in what would be a 19-3 Colorado win in which Harrell was yanked after 3+IP. In nine major league appearances between Chicago and Houston in 2011, his teams went 0-9 when he pitched.

Harrell impressed the club in Spring Training 2012 and beat out Jordan Lyles for a spot in the rotation. He was SP2 when the 2012 season opened, and he actually pitched pretty well. The high-water mark of his season was that opening start when he allowed 3H/0ER, 4K:0BB in 7IP in a 7-3 Astros win. But he still had 14 quality starts, and the Astros went 14-18 in games he started, and considering the Astros only won 55 games in 2012, that was pretty impressive.

But there were some makeup questions emerging. Harrell struggled in September 2012, and blamed the fact that the Astros were going with a 6-Man Rotation, saying, "It's a little too much time. I'm a touch and feel guy. I need to be out there a lot more."

In 2013 Harrell completely backtracked. After a 6-2 loss to the Tigers on May 14 in which he allowed 7H/5ER, 1K:3BB, Harrell complained about the use of defensive shifts:
We're trying some new things with our defense, and I thought they worked against me tonight. The ball that Dirks hit was up there forever, and I thought someone might have caught that one. He hit it hard, and that's my fault, but I was hoping someone would get there.

Worse, Bo Porter didn't find out about the complaining until the next day. He told Harrell before the game the next day:
Listen, if you have something to say, and you want to voice your opinion, I have a complete open-door policy.

He won six games and lost a league-leading 17 games for the 111-loss Astros and that includes the time he got bumped out of the rotation in July. The Astros looked into trading him prior to the deadline. At the end of the season he had an 89K:88BB line in 153.2IP. His WHIP increased from 1.36 to 1.71. His HR/9 doubled. Walks were up, strikeouts were down. We compared Harrell's 2013 season to Brandon Backe's 2008 season.

When he got bumped from the rotation, he was pissed and told Brian T. Smith that he "didn't want to talk about it." And then he did want to talk about it about getting bumped from the rotation:
I'm tied with Felix Hernandez for 10 starts with one run or less in all of baseball. I think that's kind of touch to move a guy like that down to the bullpen. But they make the decision so it's their call...I feel like I've been pretty durable and I've given a lot. 

Four days after his bullpen shift, Harrell allowed 4H/2ER, 0K:2BB in 3IP in relief of Bud Norris at St. Louis. Harrell and Jordan Lyles got into a "heated clubhouse confrontation." All parties said the right things after the fact - the Chronicle didn't report on it for five days - about moving on and teammates being teammates and whatnot. But still Harrell stayed on the team. He would only start three more games, throwing 10.2IP, 16H/18ER, 7K:10BB.

He was bad in 2013. Real bad. Many players privately noted* that Harrell was their favorite teammate that season because he was the worst player on the team, and took some of the spotlight off of them.

*No link here because it's from a reliable SOURCE

There was the time he asked a media outlet not to use a picture of him because he had a hickey on his neck. That's not so much a black eye as it is an eye roll.

He was designated for assignment after his April 15, 2014 start in which he allowed 5H/4ER, 4K:3BB to the Royals (Robbie Grossman was optioned to OKC the same night) to make room for George Springer. Harrell finished his season with a 9.49 ERA/2.27 WHIP. Two weeks later he was traded for cash considerations to Arizona. He didn't appear for the major-league club and signed with a Korean team for the 2015 season.

Harrell signed with the Tigers as a free agent in March 2016, was released on May 16, and signed with the rebuilding Braves four days later. In five starts with the Braves recaptured some of his devil magic. On July 2 he threw 6IP, 3H/1ER, 5K:1BB. On July 7 he held the Cubs to 4H/1ER, 5K:2BB in 7.2IP. His next two starts were a little rockier as he allowed 7H/7R (5ER), 4K:3BB to Colorado (get it?) and 7H/4ER, 3K:3BB at Cincinnati. However, last night (July 26) he started at Minnesota and allowed 4H/0ER, 4K:3BB.

Naturally today the Rangers traded their 20th-best prospect, Travis Demeritte, to Atlanta for Harrell and reliever Dario Alvarez. Harrell would be scheduled to pitch on Sunday. If that schedule holds, Harrell would be in line to make a start at Houston in the August 5-7 series. Hoo boy.