Texas Rangers starting pitcher Matt Harrison was great in 2011. But then again, so was Derek Holland, C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando. In fact, the Texas Rangers had five starting pitchers start at least 30 games, throw at least 160 innings and remain healthy the whole season. Since that season, the Texas Rangers pitching staff has been riddled with injury. The Rangers had two other pitchers make starts in that 2011 season, Dave Bush (3 starts) and Scott Feldman (2 starts).
In 2012, only one pitcher started over 30 games. That pitcher was, you guessed it , Matt Harrison. Harrison was 18-9 with a 3.29 ERA for his best season as a professional. Matt was at the height of his game, having career highs in games started, wins, ERA, strike outs (also walks), his wins above average (WAA) was 4.1, his WAR was 6.1 and his RAR (runs above replacement) was 58. Matt Harrison had a great year in 2012, and he garnered himself a big old contract out of it.
Of course we all remember what a disaster 2013 was for Matt Harrison, he made two starts, lost both of them, and then went on the disabled list and would up having two separate back surgeries and another surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which he had in his non throwing shoulder. 2013 was most definitely a year to forget for the 28-year-old left-hander.
Now 2014 is upon us, and it has been well documented on this site as well as almost every site
that covers the Texas Rangers regularly that Matt had a setback, but not to the extent that we all originally thought it would be. Harrison was shut down and returned to Dallas to be evaluated by the very same doctor that gave him the two back surgeries to see if anything was structurally wrong in Matt Harrison’s back. Fortunately for Texas Rangers fans everywhere, and also for Matt Harrison himself, there was nothing structurally wrong with his back, he was just sleeping on a bed that was too soft. That leads me to wonder, I too have had back surgery, am I sleeping on a bed that is too soft? Sometimes I wake up with some back pain. But I digress.
The setback was just big enough to where Matt Harrison will not be ready to pitch the first few weeks of the season, but nothing serious, but will Matt Harrison ever return to the glory of the 2012 season when he was the only dependable pitcher in that rotation? There have been many a pitcher who has come back from Tommy John surgery actually better than they were before the procedure. Pitchers like John Smoltz, Billy Wagner and Tim Hudson just to name a few. But you would be hard pressed to find a pitcher who has come back and pitched better after having back surgery. So what does that mean for Matt Harrison? Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know if Matt will ever be back to the player that he once was in 2011 and 2012, and I don’t think anyone can tell you. All we can do is watch and wait. 2014 will tell us a whole lot about the long-term health of Matt Harrison. If he makes it through the season and has even a decent year, then in my opinion there is hope for him. If he cannot make it through the season and needs more surgery, then obviously he is probably done. The in between would be that he just is not a very effective pitcher anymore, and that could also be a possibility.
So we are going to have to play the wait and see game on Matt Harrison, and I for one am hoping that we see the Harrison of 2012 moving forward and that we never have to see the Harrison from 2013 every again.