Two quick things: (a) The latest "Up And In" podcast featuring my partner in crime Jason Parks, Kevin Goldstein and special guest Keith Law has dropped over at Baseball Prospectus, and (b) remember when I expressed some concern back in March about Julio Borbon's raging desire to steal 50 bases this year? If his ill-fated attempt to swipe third base last night -- during which he was thrown out by a good 10-15 feet -- was any indication, that concern has become reality:
● Remember back at the outset of spring training, when it appeared as though the Rangers had no fewer than eight viable candidates for the Opening Day starting rotation and all was right with the world? Remember the bountiful praise for all of the rotation depth that the Rangers had managed to accumulate? Now, a little more than two months into the regular season, the Rangers are effectively down to five starters, with Brandon McCarthy and Derek Holland both being out indefinitely, Neftali Feliz being locked into a late-inning role and Matt Harrison failing yet again to convince anyone that he's anything more than a marginal back-of-the-rotation arm and/or passable long reliever.
This refresher course is a necessary one, because it's literally the only thing justifying Rich Harden's continued occupation of an active roster spot at this point. Despite managing to log his first six-inning start -- albeit while requiring 120 pitches to do so -- since May 3rd at Oakland, Harden yielded a career-high four home runs to the Brewers and racked up his fourth "disaster start" (single-start WPA =< -0.25) of the season while tossing some of his more hittable stuff of the season plateward. And despite boasting a still-solid strikeout rate (8.17 K/9), Harden somehow has the worst fielding-independent ERA (6.32 FIP) and expected fielding-independent ERA (5.72 xFIP) in baseball. Right now, he literally is the worst pitcher in baseball, and that's not an easy thing to accomplish.
Texas isn't exactly blessed with abundant manueverability right now, especially since the No. 6 starter right now is presumably either Matt Harrison or Guillermo Moscoso or Michael Kirkman (none of whom I perceive to be materially better options than present-day Harden), but something will eventually have to give. Maybe not this week, maybe not next week, but it's going to happen. And despite all indications to the contrary four months ago, it's appearing more and more likely that Texas will have to engage the trade market for starting pitching help this summer. Go figure.
● I bring this final bullet point to the table with a word of caution: I'm not a thoroughly pitching mechanics-educated guy, per se, and despite the excellent work being undertaken in the field of biomechanics right now, there is still a ton that we don't know about optimized deliveries, mechanical idiosyncracies that put some pitchers at greater risk of injury than others, and so on. With that disclaimer out of the way, allow me to impart this side-by-side photo of C.J. Wilson (left), pitching in his most recent start, and Anthony Reyes (right), a poster child for the "inverted W" pitching motion which Chris O'Leary believes puts pitchers at significantly heightened risk of elbow/shoulder problems:
Reyes, of course, succumbed to Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery last season and has started just 14 major league games since 2007; granted, a lot of that has to do with Reyes not being particularly good when on the mound, but the outcome of his situation stands. None of this is to say that there's an impending major shoulder problem about to hit Wilson (heck, he might never end up being hurt), nor is it to say that the 'inverted W' pitching motion always precedes injury, but if you're a supporter of O'Leary's theory, then you have to at least think that the risk factor is higher. I don't know who's truly right here, but O'Leary, to his credit, constructs a compelling case, and it's up to you to accept or reject that case.