Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sean Gallagher for Rich Harden Shakedown and Comparison

So, Cubs fans, how did you all feel about the Rich Harden/ Sean Gallagher trade? I know Harden is a well known commodity, but is he really all that good, or even healthy for that matter?

At the time of this writing, Harden is slamming the door on the San Francisco Giants, so I guess that's a good sign. But last night, Sean Gallagher went 7 innings on just 96 pitches, striking out 7, and giving up only 2 hits. Sure it's only 1 start, but let's look at the 2 pitchers' 2008 stats side by side as well as comparable pitchers for Gallagher.

Obviously for now, Harden is the superior pitcher, but by how much? The difference in BB% is mostly negligible, but what about that K% and the GB%? If we translate the K% rate into outs, Harden has a K/9 of about 10.75, while Gallagher has a K/9 of 7.5. The GB% translates into something around 7.2 outs for Harden per 9 innings, and 9.7 outs per 9 innings for Gallagher. In total, Harden has somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 guaranteed outs per 9 innings and Gallagher has 17.2 outs guaranteed per 9 innings. The math is a little rough, but it's not hard to see that despite the difference in the 2 pitchers' ERA, they are equally effective, and I expect that the A's will find a way to make Gallagher a more effective pitcher in the next few months, while the Cubs will find a way to put Harden on the DL by year's end.

Harden is only 26 years old, so he still has time for improvement, but Gallagher has the higher ceiling. If we look at Gallagher's comparables, we can begin to see what kind of talent the Cubs gave up to get a pitcher that isn't much better.

Gallagher has some pretty nice comparables, and he has been much more durable than Harden, who has yet to break the 600 innings barrier due to injuries despite pitching solely in the majors for the past 6 years. Just looking at the pitchers that Gallagher matches up well with, we can expect an ERA in the 2.75-3.25 range beginning next year, which will translate into 15+ wins a year through his late-20's with several of those years falling in the "ace" category.

In my pitcher ranking system, Gallagher qualifies as "Dirty" (with a score of 75 out of 100). Coming out of the minors, Harden would have barely received the same "Dirty" ranking (with a score of 70 out of 100), but he is currently earning $4.75 million, while Gallagher is making the league minimum and will continue to do so for several years. If I were the Cubs, I wouldn't be very interested in paying an extra $4.4 million a year for the services of a pitcher that isn't that much better than a guy making the league minimum, and I'm still not sure why they went to the trouble of even considering this trade. Billy Beane made out like a bandit once again, and I can't wait for this trade to come back and bite the Cubs in the rear.
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