Aaron Harang was in something of a no-win situation on Friday night. Had he pitched well against the Mets, people could have looked at his performance and thought, "Well, it's the Mets. That's what you're supposed to do against the Mets." Had he been awful, the pouncing would have begun. "Ah-ha! If he can't pitch well against the Mets, he can't possibly be that good a pitcher."
But Harang somehow found a way to pitch well enough that even fantasy analysts with a heart of coal like myself have to concede he's on an exceptional roll right now. Harang threw a no-hitter, or something close to one, in the Braves' 6-0 win. Through seven innings, he didn't allow a single hit, but he did issue six walks and was pulled in the eighth because he had already thrown 121 pitches. Still, he got the win -- a hitless, runless win -- and he now boasts a shiny 0.70 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP to go with 22 strikeouts, 12 walks and a 3-1 record.
I watched a lot of Harang's no-no on Friday because I needed to see for myself if his numbers align with reality. What I'll say is this: Harang does not have overpowering stuff by any means, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio isn't exactly the stuff of legends. His pitches top out at about 88 miles per hour, although he hit 90 a couple times. As a result, Harang relies almost entirely on the placement of his pitches. He's a needler on the mound, constantly working around the corners of the plate, and it explains how someone could render a team hitless while simultaneously allowing enough walks that you'd think his control was out of balance. The truth is that if he doesn't put his pitches in exactly the right locations, he's going to get knocked around because, again, his stuff just isn't that good, and sometimes that means putting a few too many pitches out there that aren't catching the strike zone.
Can he keep this up? I still have to lean towards a healthy no. If he does, it'll be because he's doing an outstanding job of placing his pitches. But at some point, his inability to get people out in an orderly manner is going to catch up with him. At some point, he's going to be in a situation where he'll actually have to challenge someone; you can only have so much success pitching to the outside edges before you have to come back inside. Once Harang starts lobbing pitches in bases-loaded situations, that ERA is going to come up.
Then again, there's no harm throwing him out there right now, while he's pitching this good. The Marlins are the next opponent on his docket, and outside of the intimidating Giancarlo Stanton, Miami has a pretty awful lineup, too. Long-term skepticism aside, Harang is, if nothing else, a dependable starter for next week. How much longer after that he'll be dependable is anyone's guess.
For your consideration
● The New York Mets traded Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday, clearing the deck for Lucas Duda to become their everyday first baseman. Duda makes for the better fantasy add from this point out, although that may not be saying a lot. Davis has tremendous power, but he's hitting just .208 this year, and his average in general has been atrocious since 2011. Davis may very well find it easier to hit home runs at PNC Park than Citi Field, but with the Pirates already holding Pedro Alvarez in the middle of their lineup, Davis will probably bat sixth and be in a platoon with a right-handed hitter, and that's just not the formula for great production. You can keep an eye on him, but he's way too risky to add right now.
● The Alfredo Simon starter experiment is looking fantastic so far. Simon went six shutout innings versus the Cubs on Friday and now has a 0.86 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP through three starts. Sure, two of those three starts were against the Mets and Cubs (the other came against the Rays), but Simon is throwing well enough to be worthy of an add in standard leagues.
● Martin Perez tossed a shutout against the White Sox, allowing only three hits and striking out eight. The Rangers starter has a 1.86 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP so far and is also worth your attention.
● Oh, and here's another unlikely pitcher who turned in an amazing outing on Friday. Jason Vargas didn't allow a run in seven innings of work and now has a 1.24 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. Vargas has been incredibly consistent over the last four seasons, with his ERA never dropping below 3.78 and never rising above 4.25, so it's hard to get too excited about him. Unlike Simon and Perez, Vargas has very little upside, but on the bright side, he should be an okay stream option this year, depending on who the Royals are playing.