Wednesday afternoon on WSCR, Cubs assistant General Manager Randy Bush contradicted something that had been said about new Cub Rich Harden by the Chicago Tribune's Dave van Dyck Wednesday morning...on the very same WSCR.
Van Dyck quoted a scout he spoke to right after Tuesday's trade who said that Harden has reduced his repertoire this season to just two pitches—fastball and change-up—to protect the balky shoulder that has been the culprit behind much of Harden's Disabled List time.
Bush, who heartily endorsed the proposed acquisition of Harden to his boss, Jim Hendry, and personally scouted the hurler this past Sunday when the Athletics played the White Sox in Chicago, said the no-breaking ball assertions about Harden are untrue; that he personally saw him snap off some nasty sliders at U.S. Cellular Field over the weekend.
Apparently we'll see for ourselves on Friday or Saturday, when Harden makes his National League debut against the Giants, whom Harden dominated (6 IP, 1 hit, 9 K, 2 BB and no runs allowed) in an interleague game just four weeks ago.
According to Fangraphs, whose pitch-type data goes back to 2005, Harden has changed his pitching mix quite a bit in the last few seasons. While the righthander is still throwing almost the exact same proportion of fastballs (about 62% of his total pitches), Harden has reduced the number of sliders significantly, from 10.7% to just 5.5%. He has also cut down drastically on the number of split-finger pitches he throws, from 18% to a paltry 7%.
And while, if we are to believe Randy Bush, Harden is not a strict fastball/change-up thrower, he is throwing many more change-ups than he was back in '05: from 9% to around 25%.
A couple more notes on Harden. First, this one from Will Carroll, writing Wednesday for Baseball Prospectus:
The Cubs, clearly in a win-now mode, got an upgrade with some downside. The Cubs were willing to take on that risk after a sign-off from their own doctors and the word of (Doctor) Lewis Yocum...While Harden is always going to be an injury waiting to happen, I think that the risk, and the team's relative assessments of that risk, are going to be the deciding factor in the perception of who "won" this deal.Finally, a perspective on Harden from none other than the White Sox' A.J. Pierzynski, who fanned twice in three at-bats against him on Sunday and is quoted here from an article in the Oakland Tribune that ran during Spring Training of last season:
Pierzynski compared Harden's stuff to that of Atlanta's John Smoltz. Both combine velocity with a repertoire of other pitches they can call on.
"He can make the ball go down. He has a slider which breaks. His fastball kind of cuts a little bit. Sometimes he can sink it, too," Pierzynski said of Harden. "He can move it up and down. Most guys have one thing or the other, but it's the special guys who have three or four of those."