Tag: Matt Harrison

Matt Harrison Is Key to Texas Rangers’ 2014 Season

A healthy pitcher was hard to come by for the Texas Rangers in 2013.

Eleven different pitchers started at least two games for the club last season.  Only Yu Darvish and Derek Holland started more than 30, and Martin Perez was the only other hurler to hit the 20-game mark.

That is why Matt Harrison will be the key for the Texas Rangers’ success this season.

Harrison is coming off of multiple back surgeries that limited him to just two starts last year. He has been throwing and completed a bullpen session of 44 pitches on Feb. 16. He is expected to be ready to go by Feb. 28, which marks Texas’ first spring training game.

The 28-year-old will most likely be the third or fourth starter in the rotation. Darvish, Perez and maybe Alexi Ogando well precede him, depending on whether or not manager Ron Washington wants to split his southpaws. 

It’s odd to think that a guy who won 18 games in 2012 and was the 2013 Opening Day starter is in the middle to back end of the rotation. What makes it good is it shows how strong the team’s starting pitching has become.

Harrison didn’t pitch well in his two starts last year. He gave up 10 earned runs in 10.2 innings, walking seven and giving up 11 hits. He did strike out 12 batters, but nine came against the Houston Astros, who broke the major league record for most strikeouts in a single season.

Was it the back pain he complained of after his second start that caused him to pitch poorly?

It is a good question. No matter what the answer is, the Rangers missed Harrison immensely during the course of 2013. If he was around, this team wouldn’t have had to play 163 games to try to reach the playoffs.

When it was declared that Harrison needed surgery, Washington struggled to find a permanent replacement.

Once you get past Darvish, Holland, Perez and Ogando, not a single Texas starter had a winning record last season. That includes Matt Garza, whom Texas traded half the farm system (to the Chicago Cubs) to acquire.

The offense was also a large component of the team’s failure to reach the playoffs in 2013. But even when it was scoring runs, starters who were not on the Opening Day roster had a hard time keeping opponents from rounding the bases, except Perez of course.

Again, once you go past Darvish, Holland, Perez and Ogando, the struggle to find a reliable starter is clear. Those were the only four Rangers starters to have an ERA under 4.00 in 2013.

That is what makes Harrison so valuable to the Rangers this upcoming season. He pitched at least 185 innings the past two seasons after moving from the bullpen to the rotation in 2011.

He may not strike out a lot of guys and gives up quite a few hits; however, the difference between him and his replacements was his ERA. In 2011, it was 3.39 and slightly improved to 3.29 in 2012. Although he has given up an average of 9.4 hits per nine innings over the course of his career, he has been able to limit damage and get out of tough situations.

Player Games Started ERA Quality Starts
Justin Grimm 17 6.37 6
Nick Tepesch 17 4.84 4
Matt Garza 13 4.38 4
Josh Lindblom 5 5.46 1
Travis Blackley 3 4.70 1
Ross Wolf 3 4.15 1

To put that in perspective, he has a quality start percentage of 64 percent. That is the same percentage that Darvish has since 2012. The team always has a shot at winning when he takes the bump and is 40-24 since 2011 when Harrison starts.

He needs to take this spring to get himself back into the swing of things. In an interview with Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News, he said he can’t let Holland’s injury speed up his return to the mound. Doing so could force him back to the disabled list, and that is something this team cannot afford.

For the Rangers to reclaim the crown in the West, it will be key for Harrison to stay healthy and get back to the form he had in 2012.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

You can follow Trey on Twitter @treydwarren

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Texas Rangers Injury Report: Updates Heading into Spring Training

The Texas Rangers are just a few weeks away from opening up spring training in Surprise, Ariz.

Luckily for the club, most of its roster is filled with healthy players getting ready for the day-to-day grind. However, there are a few players who will not be joining the Rangers. There are some who will have a tougher time getting back into the groove because of injuries.

Derek Holland will obviously be one of those guys who won’t be in Surprise. He is recovering from knee surgery and won’t be available until around the All-Star break.

Here are injury updates on a couple of other players looking to make a comeback in 2014.


Matt Harrison

Matt Harrison made just two starts last season before it was cut short due to two back surgeries on a herniated disk.

The 28-year-old has been throwing for quite some time now. He is expected to be ready to go by the time spring training rolls around. The Dallas Morning News’ Gerry Fraley reported that he successfully completed a bullpen session on Jan. 21, throwing 35 pitches.

He will also look like a different guy when Texas fans see him in Surprise. Fraley says Harrison has dropped about 30 pounds during his rehab program.

Spring training should be very beneficial to Harrison’s comeback this season considering where he is now.


Colby Lewis

The club’s most successful playoff pitcher in history hasn’t pitched in a big league game since July 18, 2012.

Colby Lewis was signed to a minor league deal back on Nov. 23, which included an invite to spring training. He will be coming back from multiple surgeries on his elbow and hip.

With Holland out for the first few months, Lewis could be in line for a rotation spot. He has gone 32-29 since 2010 and is 4-1 in the postseason.

In an interview on KRLD-FM, Lewis said that his hip is great and it is the best he has felt in four or five years.

That is what Rangers fans are hoping for.

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Texas Rangers: Projecting the 2014 Starting Rotation

There is only one spot left undecided in the Texas Rangers starting rotation for 2014.

It is presumably for the fourth or fifth spot. The team has three lefties in Derek Holland, Martin Perez and Matt Harrison, and Yu Darvish is the lone righty.

Last season, Harrison started the year at the top of the rotation and was followed by Darvish. It will be different when next season starts, but not much. Texas fans will get to see what the rotation would have looked like last season if it weren’t plagued with injuries.

So without further ado, here is the Rangers’ projected starting rotation for next season.


All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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Matt Harrison to Have Back Surgery, Back to Rangers After All-Star Break

The Rangers announced bad news regarding pitcher Matt Harrison on Friday afternoon:


The back surgery will likely be a microdiscectomy, given the relatively short return time. The surgery will be performed in Dallas by Dr. Drew Dossett, one of the country’s top back surgeons and a protege of Dr. Robert Watkins. 

A microdiscectomy is a surgery in which the spinal surgeon or neurologist goes into the spine through a tiny incision and removes a small part of the damaged spinal disc using special tools. These spinal discs act as cushions between the vertebrae, so removing only the damaged or impinging part leaves much of the cushioning effect in place and results in less trauma. 

In the case of Harrison, Anthony Andro also gave the location the doctors will repair:

This area is very low on the spine, as shown in the picture to the right. It is a common region for this type of herniation to occur. Given the stress on the lower back due to pitching motion, it is not an uncommon injury among pitchers.

It also very clearly explains why Harrison lost some velocity, as this damaged disc would have prevented a full bend and changed his release and follow-through.

Harrison will miss around two months, putting his return to the Rangers’ rotation around the All-Star break. Pitchers that miss this much time and are unable to continue throwing will need an extended rehab period. The Rangers do most of their rehabilitation at nearby Double-A Frisco, allowing the major-league staff to monitor the players. Frisco athletic trainer Carlos Olivas also has an excellent reputation and a track record of positive results with major-league rehabs.

In the meantime, the Rangers will continue to use young pitchers Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm. Two injury cases that could be back in the near future are Colby Lewis, coming off elbow surgery and expected to start a rehab assignment at the start of May, and Martin Perez, who looked to break camp with the Rangers until a come-backer fractured his wrist. Perez is in the midst of a throwing program and could begin rehab starts—again, likely in Frisco—within the next 10 days. 

Harrison should have no trouble returning once he completes the rehabilitation program following surgery and regains the stamina in his arm. Pitchers such as Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown and Eric Gagne and players like Rafael Furcal have had similar procedures and returned on schedule. 

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Matt Harrison Injury: Updates on Rangers Pitcher’s Recovery from Back Surgery

The Texas Rangers‘ quest to catch the surging Oakland Athletics in the AL West just got a whole lot more difficult.

According to the Rangers’ official Twitter feed, starting pitcher Matt Harrison will undergo back surgery for a herniated disc and be out until after the All-Star break:

The 27-year-old left-hander had been suffering through back soreness throughout April and was placed on the disabled list earlier this month.

Initially thought to be merely an inflamed nerve in his back, Friday’s diagnosis will put the Rangers’ rotation in a dire situation.

Ascending in Texas’ rotation in each of the past two seasons, Harrison had developed into one of manager Ron Washington’s top workhorses. Harrison compiled an 18-11 record with a 3.29 ERA and 1.26 WHIP last season, tossing four complete games en route to his first All-Star appearance. 

Expected to dominate atop the Rangers’ rotation again in 2013, it was clear from Harrison’s first start that something wasn’t right. The southpaw started two games, losing both while posting an 8.44 ERA and 1.97 WHIP. Harrison’s control was especially erratic, as he walked seven batters in just 10.2 innings pitched. 

Despite those struggles, this is an injury Texas could ill afford.

The Rangers had already been through an offseason full of turmoil, having lost star outfielder Josh Hamilton to the rival Angels. Harrison and ace Yu Darvish were supposed to be the anchors to help mitigate that loss, but the former’s injury could put the Rangers in a hole out West. 

Right-hander Justin Grimm replaced Harrison in the rotation and will likely continue to do so for the time being. Grimm started one game in Harrison’s place this season, spraying five hits and giving up two runs in four innings pitched. 

The 24-year-old Grimm could develop into a solid back-end starter later in his career, but it seems likely that Texas will look to make a move to replace Harrison sooner rather than later. 


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San Francisco Giants: Rangers’ Harrison Pitches a Gem, Blanks the Giants

On a day after scoring eight runs on 15 hits, and 19 runs over the last three games, the Giants surging offense was brought to a screeching halt Friday evening. Scattering just five hits over eight innings, Matt Harrison (8-3) pitched a complete-game shutout for the Rangers while Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton homered to beat the Giants 5-0.    

In their first meeting since Game 5 of the 2010 World Series, the Giants sent Barry Zito (5-3) to the mound to face a potent Ranger’s lineup. Coming off back-to-back wins, Zito had only given up two runs in his last 15 and a third innings.

It took only two pitches Friday evening before Zito gave up his first run as Ian Kinsler led off the game with a bomb to left field that landed 15 rows up the bleacher. 

The Rangers were ahead 2-0 in the fifth when Hamilton came to the plate with one out and nobody on.  With the count 1-1, Zito hung a curveball that Hamilton crushed to one of the deepest parts of the park in right center, clearing the wall beyond the 421 marker with ease. Hamilton’s home run was his 22nd, which leads the major leagues.

Along with the two home runs, the Rangers knocked out 14 hits including three doubles. One of the doubles came from the Rangers center fielder Craig Gentry, who had a career night going 5-5 with two RBI. 

The Giants offense was baffled and off-balance all night. Harrison not only induced the Giants into 15 groundouts, he was sawing Giant hitters off all night as there were multiple broken bats flying across the infield and two into the stands.  

With tonight’s 5-0 loss, the Giants suffered their first shutout of the season. They also lost their first game at home to the Texas Rangers since June 26th, 1998, at Candlestick Park, breaking a 13-game home-winning streak.

Additionally, the fielding issues continued for the Giants as they added to their major league leading total of 55 when Joaquin Arias made a throwing error in the first inning. 

Bruce Bochy acknowledged before the game that Arias was being used a lot, was tired, and could use a day off. That day off could be tomorrow as the Giants’ front office wasted no time after the game making a move to allow the team to activate Pablo Sandoval from Class Triple-A Fresno for tomorrow’s game. 

Sandoval, who has been rehabbing from a broken hamate bone in his wrist, slammed two home runs in Friday night’s game in Fresno, making the decision pretty easy for the Giants front office.

To make room for Sandoval, Brett Pill was optioned back to Fresno.

The Giants send Ryan Vogelsong (4-2) to the mound tomorrow afternoon against Scott Feldman (0-4), as the Giants try and even the three-game series at one a piece, game time is 1:05 p.m. 


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Fantasy Baseball 2012: Top 15 Waiver-Wire Pickups for Week 3

The following slideshow touts the top 15 waiver-wire pickups right now, a countdown of the best free agents from the majority of 12-team roto leagues. For the most part, this list rewards players who have already fostered productive starts to the 2012 season.

Savvy readers will notice the rankings are different from last week’s offering; and that can be attributed to the waiver-wire graduations of Zack Cozart, Jordan Schafer, Henry Rodriguez, Danny Duffy and Lance Lynn—forgotten assets on draft day but now invaluable pieces with their current teams. And that’s how it should be with this list: Here today, gone tomorrow.

Enjoy the show!

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Texas Rangers: Which Starting Rotation Candidates Will Make the Cut?

The Texas Rangers were long-regarded as an offensive-minded ball-club, built upon the strength of their lineup, with pitching generally seeming like an afterthought. 

Since Nolan Ryan took control of the franchise however, the emphasis on building a deep, talented pitching staff has become a priority.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Rangers have experienced more success in the last two seasons than they had throughout their entire history up to 2010. Beginning in 1961 as the Washington Senators, the franchise had only experienced three playoff series, losing in the first round in 1996, ’98 and ’99, before their two-consecutive AL pennants over the last two seasons.

Still an offensive powerhouse, Texas has taken a more balanced approach to building their roster, focusing as much on pitching and defense as on the strength of their lineup. There are few one-dimensional players on the squad these days, a welcome change from seasons past.

After two straight years of incredible success, the pitching staff finds itself in a state of transition, though many of the primary contributors remain the same.

They signed Joe Nathan to bolster the rear of their bullpen, in hope that one-time uber-prospect Neftali Feliz can become the ace they have long envisioned. Their ace of the last two years, reliever-turned-starter C.J. Wilson, has moved on to their fierce rivals in Anaheim, preferring to move home to Orange County once he became a free agent.

Texas will gamble again on transitioning a reliever to the starting rotation, something which they’ve had great success with over the last few years, first with Wilson, then with Alexi Ogando last season.

Also, their dramatic leap into the international player market was one of potential great reward, as they signed perhaps the most-touted Japanese pitcher ever in Yu Darvish. His professional resume in Japan is stellar and they’re gambling big that he can replicate his success in Major League Baseball.

Alongside Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, the Rangers’ principal owner, Texas has established a formidable brain trust with an intimate knowledge of pitching. Their pitching coach Mike Maddux is one of the more respected at his profession in the league, able to impart a vast array of knowledge and experience upon his staff.

His brother, future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, one of the greatest pitchers in recent decades, will now serve as a front office consultant to GM Jon Daniels.

With such an impressive group of pitching minds involved in the construction and management of their staff, the Texas Rangers are in good hands when it comes to matters of the mound. 

As they prepare to decide upon their starting staff for the 2012 season, faced with an excess of talented arms, let’s look at the primary contenders who will be vying for the five slots in their rotation.

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Fantasy Baseball: Which Breakout Pitchers To Sell or Keep?

There are quite a few pitchers who have gotten off to amazing starts to their 2011 campaigns, surprising many fantasy owners. Who’s for real? Who should we cut bait on now? Let’s take a look at a few of them:


Gio GonzalezOakland Athletics

In his first three starts, Gonzalez is sporting a 0.47 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. The problem is that he has done it with a BABIP of .212 and a strand rate of 100.0 percent. Obviously that’s not going to continue.

He has also continued to struggle with his control. In 19.0 innings of work, he has walked 12 batters—good for a BB/9 of 5.68. It’s hard to imagine continued success if he is going to walk that many batters. Think it’s an aberration? In his minor league career he had a BB/9 of 4.01. In his previous three seasons he posted the following BB/9:

  • 2008—6.62 (34.0 IP)
  • 2009—5.11 (98.2 IP)
  • 2010—4.13 (200.2 IP)

If he continues to walk people, the numbers are going to come tumbling down. It’s really just a matter of time. Yes, being a good ground-ball pitcher (50.0 percent in ’11) helps, but it’s not enough. I’d be wary of Gonzalez moving forward, as the numbers scream for a possible regression.


Matt HarrisonTexas Rangers

After stymieing the Yankees on Friday night (8.0 IP, 1 ER, 7 H, 3 BB, 3 K, W), Harrison is at 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. He certainly has had luck on his side with a .203 BABIP and 93.0 percent strand rate, but there are other numbers at play as well.

Thus far this season he’s posted a line-drive rate of 9.8 percent, after being at over 20 percent in his previous three seasons. Can that continue?

Harrison also offers little upside in the strikeout department (5.73 K/9 in ’11, 6.42 in his minor league career). He does have good control (2.07 BB/9 in his minor league career), which helps to backup his 2.45 mark in ’11. 

Is good control and an improved ground-ball rate (52.5 percent in ’11) enough to warrant grabbing him off waiver wires? I wouldn’t expect him to induce six ground-ball double plays very often, meaning the results against the Yankees could’ve been very, very different.

While those in AL-only formats could consider him, there’s a risk for a major regression at hand. If you are in a mixed league, that risk coupled with the low strikeout rate are enough reasons to stay away.


Justin MastersonCleveland Indians

With a 1.33 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP and a 3-0 record in his first three starts, there’s a lot to like about the “Masterful” Justin Masterson.

A lot of people have written him off due to his struggles the past few years, but there was an awful lot of bad luck at play (68.6 percent, 66.6 percent strand rates the previous two years). He also hadn’t shown very good control, something that he had consistently displayed in the minor leagues (2.28 BB/9).

He is one of the elite ground-ball pitchers in the league, currently sporting a 65.0 percent ground-ball rate. Since 2009, among pitchers with at least 300 innings pitched, Masterson is second in the league with a 57.8 percent ground-ball rate (Joel Pineiro leads the way at 58.2 percent). That certainly says a lot about his potential to produce, assuming the luck is there. 

Not that he’s going to be able to continue his .242 BABIP, but for a ground-ball pitcher, marks of .314 and .324 (which he posted in ’09 and ’10) are going to hurt.  Improvement there will go a long way to his success.

I know people are going to point towards his 5.31 K/9 and say that he’s worthless, but that’s shortsighted. Over his minor league career he posted a 7.46 K/9 and showed in his second start of the season (nine K in 6.1 IP against the Mariners) that he has the potential to pile up the strikeouts. If he can strike out five to six batters a night—to go with the rest of his repertoire—he has the stuff to be a breakout starter in 2011.

If others in your league have not yet bought into his early season success, I would highly recommend him. Yes, there is the chance for a regression, but he has the stuff to be a useful starter all year long.


Chris NarvesonMilwaukee Brewers

He’s won only one game in his first three starts, but Narverson’s sporting a 1.45 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Considering his realistic .286 BABIP (though he has benefited from an 86.4 percent strand rate), there certainly is reason to take notice.

The real question when it comes to Narveson is his 9.16 K/9. If he can come reasonably close to sustaining it, the sky is the limit. If he can’t, there’s going to be a regression.

Over his minor league career he posted a K/9 of 7.50. At Triple-A in ’09 he posted a 9.1 K/9, though a lot of that came while working in the bullpen (only six starts in 26 outings). In September of 2010 he did show the potential to maintain this type of mark in the rotation, with 37 Ks in 37.1 innings of work. In August he had 20 Ks in 26.1 innings of work.

His performance as of late has not just come out of nowhere.

Can it continue with a fastball that has been averaging 87.9 mph? I’m not so sure about that.

He has looked good and is certainly worth owning, but he is no guarantee to continue. Having never shown this type of strikeout success in the past, it’s hard to say that three starts is a given. Even if you include August and September of 2010, you are looking at 14 starts. It’s a lot better, but it still shouldn’t be accepted as the new norm.

Tread carefully, but he’s certainly worth owning in most formats because he’s pitching in the NL. Just don’t become too attached, because there is a good chance that a regression could be coming.

What are your thoughts on these four pitchers? Who do you think is for real? Who would you avoid?

Make sure to check out these other great articles from Rotoprofessor:


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Breaking Down Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando’s Impressive Starts to the Season

Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando had two terrific performances which have helped propel the Rangers to a 9-1 record and an early lead in the AL West. The Rangers toyed with the idea of starting Neftali Feliz this spring training, and there was considerable support to put him in the depleted rotation. However, the Ogando switch has taken pressure off of Jon Danlels and Nolan Ryan off the hook for not making the move, and Tommy Hunter’s injury has allowed both Harrison and Ogando to flourish while Feliz remains in the closer’s role.     

Harrison has shown improved velocity in his two starts against the Red Sox and Orioles. Harrison’s four and two seam fastballs have shown a lot of life and movement this season. He has averaged 90-91 mph on his fastball as a full time starters and 92.2 mph as mostly a reliever last season. However, he has averaged 93 mph in his first two starts, and he has topped out at 97.6 mph in his last start. All of his pitches, which include both fastballs, a cutter, curveball, change and slider have shown more movement in 2011. With the increased velocity and movement on his pitches, Harrison has been getting more swinging strikes (9.2 percent), and he has struck out seven per nine innings up from his career mark of five per nine.  

Harrison has shown better control so far, averaging 1.93 BB/9, better than his career 3.61 rate, and has induced groundballs at a 50 percent rate. His xFIP is impressive at 3.42 and if Harrison is able to keep his home run rate lower than in previous seasons, he could stick in the rotation for the rest of the season.   

Ogando’s starts against the Mariners and Tigers have been just as impressive. Ogando does not throw as hard as a starter, but his 93.8 mph is still above average (96 mph in 2010 as a reliever). Some scouts worry about his ability to retire left-handed batters, but he did not allow a hit to one in today’s start and he struck out two. 

Ogando’s xFIP of 3.89 indicates that he might be relying on too much contact, but he had similar numbers during his stellar 2010 season. I am a little concerned about his groundball percentage at 29.5 percent along with his reoccurring blister problem. However, Ogando’s slider has been excellent with increased usage to both types of hitters. I don’t think he will be as successful later in the season, but he is a better alternative than the lucky Tommy Hunter.

With these impressive starts, the Rangers have shown depth in a rotation that some considered average. No one believes that this group will be as a good as they have been during the first week and a half, but with this offense they don’t need to be. 

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