2012 was a breakout season for Lucas Harrell. It was also his rookie season. You might be asking… how is that possible? Well, you see, the 27-year old right-hander made only a handful of appearances with the White Sox in 2010 and 2011 before being claimed off waivers by the Astros. Entering the season, Harrell had pitched a total of 42 big league innings, meaning his rookie status was still intact.
Had he been pitching on a winning team, or in a market such as New York or Los Angeles, Harrell’s 2012 performance would have gained the attention of those fickle writers who vote for things like the Rookie of the Year Award. Instead, his 11-11 record and 3.76 ERA went mostly unnoticed – but not by those of us who watched him pitch on a regular basis.
Harrell led all rookies with 193.2 innings pitched. His 0.6 HR/9 IP was the second lowest among rookies, trailing only Oakland’s Jarrod Parker(0.55). Lucas features a low to mid-nineties sinking fastball and a cutter. Mixing in an occasional changeup or breaking ball, Harrell posted a stellar 57.2% ground ball rate.
Lucas Harrell (Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports)
Harrell’s 2.8 WAR was second among N.L. rookie pitchers, trailing only the 3.4 posted by Arizona southpaw Wade Miley. Harrell even topped the 2.0 mark of 18-game winner Lance Lynn. Harrell and Lynn had almost identical ERAs but Harrell lacked the run support enjoyed by Lynn.
The Astros were shut out in seven of Harrell’s starts, including a 1-0 loss to San Diego. Harrell also picked up a 1-0 win over the Padres. That was one of three starts in which the Astros scored only one run for Lucas.
Harrell was tagged with the loss in all seven shutouts, meaning he had a record of 11-4 when the Astros scored at least one run. That’s reminiscent of the season Roger Clemens had with the Astros in 2005. Houston was shut out nine times that season when Clemens was on the hill. The Rocket lost only four of those decisions and finished the year with a 13-8 record and a 1.87 ERA.
One thing I love about Harrell is his intense desire to succeed. That too reminds me of Clemens. Harrell approaches every aspect of the game with a tremendous amount of intensity. The move to the American League this season will cut into his plate appearances and the time spends running the bases. The fiery competitor that he is, I’m sure he is going to miss that.
Last year Harrell started the second game of the season, shutting down the Rockies for seven innings and picking up the win. I was fortunate enough to be at that game with fellow staff members Alex and Brian. I told them to keep an eye on Harrell because I thought he was going to have a great year. (I also said the same thing about Chris Johnson but that’s another story) Harrell proved me right and should be back in the #2 starter’s spot this season. If he can stay healthy Harrell has a bright future with the Astros.