Chicago Cubs: An ‘ace’ in the hole
Following the deal for Harden, it looked like an excellent move. Harden stepped right into his role for the team, delivering a Cy Young level of production. He finished the remainder of the year with a 1.77 ERA, holding opposing hitters to a .157 average.
Harden boosted his strikeout rate to a whopping 31.3 percent while keeping his walk rate relatively unchanged. His FIP and xFIP did jump a bit, as it was considering Harden had come from Oakland, but he held stable in each of those numbers.
In his first start following the trade, Harden threw 5 1/3 shutout innings at home versus the Giants with ten strikeouts. A week later on the road versus the Diamondbacks, Harden threw seven innings of one-run ball with another ten strikeouts. Five days later, back at home versus the Marlins, Harden went five innings, allowing one run with a third straight ten strikeout performance.
Harden went on to have two more starts in the season of allowing one or fewer runs with double-digit strikeouts. He was precisely who the Cubs needed down the stretch. Harden made a postseason start in Game 3 of the NLDS versus the Dodgers on the road, pitching well but ultimately losing as the Cubs saw their World Series hopes dashed.