Rich Harden, Durable? Not So Fast

Nagging issues persist in 2009

Today, Chicago Tribune national baseball writer Phil Rogers (why the Tribune deems it necessary to still maintain a "national" baseball writer that spends most of his time writing about the Cubs and Sox we'll never understand, but whatever, bigger fish to fry) questions the reputation of Rich Harden. Or, more specifically, attempts to solidify it. See, Harden used to always get hurt. In 2008, he didn't. In the offseason, he did, sort of, but he's since rebounded. And in 2009, through six starts, he's remained undamaged. So, to paraphrase Second City's latest and greatest: Rich Harden, all better?

Not so fast. Something seems wrong with Rich Harden.

In the past, whenever Rich Harden was healthy, he was lights-out. In his 12 games with the Cubs in 2008, Harden's ERA was a miniscule 1.77; his WHIP was .972; and he allowed a mere six home runs. In 2009, in six starts, he's allowed six home runs already. His ERA is 4.83. His WHIP is 1.453. He's getting beaten around pretty frequently here. This is not a healthy Rich Harden, or, if it is, healthy Rich Harden suddenly became a very mediocre major league pitcher.

It might just be fatigue. We've taken note of this before. Harden's velocity has wavered in his poorer outings. Maybe he's just tired. Or maybe he's hurt again, and he and we don't know about it yet. Perish the thought.

Either way, 2009 has not dispelled Harden's reputation quite yet. Something seems slightly amiss here. If Harden were always mediocre, then fine; we could give him credit for not being hurt, and for making his mediocre starts, and woo-hoo go Cubs go. But he's not a mediocre pitcher. He's a really good one. When he's not, it usually means something's wrong.

Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, Follow him on Twitter.

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