August 14, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Lucas Harrell (64) delivers a pitch against the Oakland Athletics during the 10th inning at O.co Coliseum. The Astros defeated the Athletics 2-1 in 11 innings. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

When Does the Lucas Harrell Experiment End?


The Astros had several players “win” a spot on the roster during spring training. Lucas Harrell, who suffered a 6-17 campaign in 2013, was one of those guys. He lasted just three innings in his season debut. I am done asking when he will learn. It is now time to ask when he will be released.

 

Lucas was a waiver claim from the White Sox in the 2011 season. He made his Astros debut that September and was effective in a small sample of 13 innings. In a full season the 2012 campaign saw Harrell be a solid contributor from the Astros rotation. An 11-11 record with a 3.76 ERA and being the “Astros Pitcher of the Year” gave hope for the organization. The thinking was that Harrell would be a significant innings eater for a younger Astros rotation in the coming seasons.

The expectation has been short-lived as Lucas has become quite the opposite pitcher since then. Clubhouse brawls, open discontent about defensive positioning, and a fever to nibble led to his downfall for the 2013 campaign. With a 3.60 ERA he pitched well in April though there were signs that the season would be brutal for him. A high batting average against combined with a high walk rate is not the recipe for success at this level of baseball.

Let’s also take a look directly comparing hits per nine, walks per nine, and innings pitched between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. The move to the bullpen late in the 2013 season dropped his inning count from 193 2/3 in 2012 to just 153 2/3 for the 2013 season. Perhaps the more drastic measures are how his hits per nine figure increased from 8.6 to 10.2 hits allowed per nine innings. For me, the HR/9 statistic is the one that would have given him the boot a long time ago. During the 2012 season he was a ground ball machine and limited homers to just 0.6 per nine. This rate doubled to a 1.2 figure for the 2013 season. Speaking of ground balls, the rate in 2012 was 57.2% and dropped to 51.5% last season.

Right now there is hope that new pitching coach Brett Strom will help Lucas. Strom has already tweaked other members of the rotation and results have already showed statistically as well as visually. Spike curveballs anyone?

The truth is that Lucas returned to the infamous form he exhibited during the 2013 season. His start vs. the Angels last week was brutal. In just three innings he allowed 7 hits while walking 3. Ultimately he gave up 5 runs including a solo home run.

I know that it is too early in the season to be rewarding players from AAA for their success. But with Harrell being unwilling to prove his worth through a move to the bullpen, the best option is to let him go. With Harrell removed from the 40 man roster, the Astros would be down to 38 men, potentially setting up a flurry of roster moves.

 

 

 

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