Shhhhh, don’t talk about Matt Harrison. Matt Harrison is why we shouldn’t shove aside prospects who “merely” project as mid-rotation arms. Matt Harrison shows why it is good to have mid-rotation arms. Matt Harrison proves “number three starter” is not a dirty word. Matt Harrison is not an ace. Matt Harrison is probably a number three starter. Matt Harrison is better than a lot of teams’ best pitcher.

Which is to say, Matt Harrison is really good. Matt Harrison’s stats don’t jump off the page – his strikeout rate is low and his walk rate is respectable, though it isn’t so minuscule to blow back the hair of anyone aware of Cliff Lee. His ground ball rate is above average but, like his other metrics, drops neither jaws nor stat nerd boxer shorts.

What Matt Harrison does is prevent runs. Over the last two years, few pitchers did a better job of keeping runs off the board. He ranks sixth among starters in WPA since the beginning of the 2011 season – he gets outs, in other words. He will continue to prevent runs for the Texas Rangers for the next five years as he agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $55 million dollars. The Rangers announced the agreement includes an option for 2018.

In buying out Harrison’s remaining arbitration years and two years of his free agency, the Rangers secured a pitcher who profiles as a three but pitches more like a two to very agreeable terms. Harrison throws a lot of sinkers and does what he must to keep the ball in the ballpark, job one when your call Arlington home. Harrison smartly uses the Rangers stellar infield defense to his advantage – not quite “pitching to contact” but getting double plays at a high rate.

For a team like Texas, Matt Harrison is perfect. Obviously Jon Daniels and his crew agree. Durable of late, able to throw innings and as previous stated (but cannot be overstated in its importance) he is increasingly adept at preventing home runs. Like Trevor Cahill of the Diamondbacks – some of his advanced numbers aren’t so shiny but the results speak loudly – if you’re willing to listen.

The Rangers work this off-season isn’t done. With Harrison in place at a good price, Texas has a little extra wiggle room when it comes to upgrading their pitching staff. Going into the season with Martin Perez as their number five starter isn’t the end of the world. They still have Colby Lewis coming back from an elbow injury for depth but don’t count the Rangers out from making adding another, better, pitcher.

If Daniels does add another big name pitcher, he will have his work cut out for him to pitch as well as Matt Harrison has over the last three years. Other might display flashier stats and rack up more strikeouts than Harrison, but I’ll bet on the big lefty when it comes to runs allowed.

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