By Sam Bush

Aaron Harang was supposed to be a useful back-of-the-rotation starter when the Phillies signed him for $1.5 million — the equivalent of a fish cake — last winter.

The 37-year-old had been around the MLB block and was projected to be thrown into a rotation that included Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.

Then reality set in.

First, it was discovered that Lee’s formerly trust left arm was damaged beyond repair and he was gone for the season. Then Hamels was traded on July 31.

Harang, however, started the season as a reliable fill-in, mowing down batters and piling up quality starts.

Then the bottom fell out.


Winning 20 games is an uncommon achievement these days in baseball, what with pitchers being tied to tight pitch counts. But Harang has a shot at an even tougher feat: losing 20.

Losing 20 games requires a lot to go right. (And, of course, wrong.) Besides typically needing to be on a miserable team, the pitcher needs to be healthy enough to get a lot of starts and unlucky enough to be credited with a lot of decisions, yet decent enough to stay in the rotation.

The last major-league pitcher to pull it off was Mike Maroth (9-21) in 2003 for the 43-119 Detroit Tigers. That team—which had to win its final two games to avoid tying the 1962 New York Mets for the most losses in the modern era—nearly had two 20-game losers. (Jeremy Bonderman went 6-19.) Before Maroth, the last 20-game loser was in 1980.

But if Harang (5-14) could break the drought. The 37-year-old righty, whose loss total led the majors entering Thursday, has received a losing decision in 11 of his last 12 starts since the end of May, with his ERA jumping from 1.82 to 4.79 in that span. His next scheduled start for the worst-in-the-majors Phillies is tomorrow at the Miami Marlins.

Harang has been baseball’s perennial losing pitcher for more than a decade. Of the 22 active pitchers who have started at least 300 games, Harang is the only one with a losing record (127-142). Despite 14 years in the majors with eight different teams, he has never pitched in the playoffs.

Should he manage to lose six more games this year, it would be baseball’s 500th 20-game losing season, compared with 818 20-game winning seasons so far.

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