Last year, Evan Gattis was basically a mythical player and undeniable fan favorite for the Atlanta Braves. Aaron Harang has taken over that role this season, and he has the stats to back up a fascinating comeback story. To say Harang has had a good start of the season, so far, would be a punishable understatement. The man has been almost unhittable in the beginning of the season thanks to his years of experience and very solid pitching. This incredible start of the season for the veteran right-hander has Aaron Harang on a quest to complete a magical comeback for the Braves. As of Thursday, in five starts Harang has a 3-1 record and a MLB-leading 0.85 ERA to go along with 33 strikeouts.
The veteran right-hander was added by the Braves on March 25, which was right before the season started. In a then controversial decision, the Braves cut Freddy Garcia and added Aaron Harang in a desperate attempt to piece together a depleted pitching rotation. Harang’s career was in jeopardy when the Cleveland Indians released him, but the Braves’ scouts liked what they saw out of him in September of 2013, so they added him to the ball club. They believed that the pitcher-friendly Turner field and a great defense backing him up, along with his positive track record of pitching in the National League, would benefit his style of pitching. If Harang is able to even remotely keep pitching like he is throughout the season, then those scouts need a significant raise.
This magical comeback by Aaron Harang has been one of the highlights in the MLB season in April, and his amazing start is something that basically nobody saw coming. Harang has joined elite company in his historically impressive start — him and Pedro Martinez are the only pitchers to give up one or less run in 6+ innings in their first five starts. All of this is coming from an aging pitcher who had a record of 5-12 with a 5.40 ERA in 2013, so it is easy to say that the veteran pitcher is having quite a remarkable comeback season.
Some have called Harang’s increible start a “fluke,” which would ultimately fizzle out one reality settled in. There are even rumors swirling around that the Braves would remove him from the rotation once other starters, such as Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd, are healthy. But Harang has been an effective pitcher for an entire year as recent as his very good 2012 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. So far, it looks as if he has returned to the pitcher he was during his prime with the Cincinnati Reds in the mid-2000’s. It would be best for the Braves to let him keep pitching unless he gives them a reason to take him out of the rotation.
In his first five starts, Aaron Harang has been blazing through lineups at a tremendous pace. Harang pitched very well against the Florida Marlins on April 23 in which he had 11 strikeouts and allowed only one run in a no-decision. In his start on April 18, he pitched seven innings of no-hit baseball against the New York Mets. While the bullpen was unable to maintain the no-hitter, the Braves still won the game 6-0. Needless to say, he has pitched incredibly well in April, so far. Harang can easily be viewed as an integral part of the Atlanta Braves’ NL East-leading record of 14-7 to start the year.
Aaron Harang is on a quest to complete a magical comeback this season, and it may just end up being the finest season of his career. If he is able to return to form and keep up his masterful changing of pitch speeds and the location of his pitches, then Harang could possibly even contend for the Cy Young. However, it is logically inevitable that he will come across some roadblocks during the season that will test whether he is for real or not. The shockingly incredible start of the season that Harang has had, so far, is the best-case scenario that the Braves could have hoped for. Only time will tell to whether he can even remotely keep up his historic pace.
Commentary by Glen Parris
Guardian Liberty Voice Writer Covering the Atlanta Braves