Welcome to “Get To Know a Nat.” There are currently 39 men on the 40 man roster, and we’re going to give you the straight scoop on all of them! Not sure where to start with player and season previews? Not ready to jump into heavy metrics? Just want to get to know the players, what they do, and what to expect from them in 2013? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Name: Daniel John Haren
Nickname(s): No Nats Nicknames Yet.
DOB: September 17, 1980 (Age 32)
From: Monterey Park, California
Position: Starting Pitcher Rotation Spot: Likely 4th Spot
With the Nats Since: Signed as Free Agent in 2013
The more I read about Dan Haren, the more excited I am he is pitching for the Washington Nationals. I’ll admit, I was a bit thrown for a loop when the Nationals signed up. Haren was a solid pitcher before, but his 2012 campaign raised some serious red flags. Here was a guy the Nats were asking to replace Edwin Jackson, no stranger to going deep into games, and Haren had back trouble for much of the 2012 season. He turned in his worst year of his career pitching for the Los Angels Angels of Anaheim, and the team didn’t even try to pick up the option on his contract. The Nationals picked him up for a (comparative) steal at $13 million dollars for one year, and are hoping that he’s healed and ready to be the Haren of old. He did pitch much better in the second half of 2012, but Haren is still a gamble for the Nationals-one they hope pays off.
What’s Expected: As I wrote above, I’m actually more excited the more I read about Haren because I didn’t realize just what he was capable of until I did a little more research. Let’s look at his Baseball Reference Stats:
The first thing that jumped out at me is the guy just doesn’t walk people. His BB/9 rate (which we covered just the other day) hovers between 1.5-2.0, or between 1 and 2 walks per game…over whole seasons. What’s better, is he SO/BB rates are in the upper 5s-which means He’s striking out a lot of people compared to how many batters he’s walking. Those stats in bold are times he lead the league. Not to mention his 2009 year when his WHIP (also covered with BB/9) was 1.009, or just barely averaging 1 walk or hit per inning. Three time all-star, and twice got Cy Young votes. He pitches more than 30 games a year, including last year’s debacle- These are impressive credentials.
If Haren is healthy, the Nationals basically added another top of the line starter-as good as Jordan Zimmermann- to the back of their rotation. Like Ross Detwiler, the Nationals will be at serious advantages in series on the back end of the rotation, where their pitching will just be leaps and bounds above the other 4 and 5 pitchers in rotations.
If It All Goes Wrong: Well, obviously here the big issue is injury. Let’s take a look at some info from FanGraphs to help explain:
The top chart is the percentage of types of pitches Haren throws. The second chart is the velocity (on average) that he throws those pitches. The first two columns in both cases are Fastballs (all types) and Two Seam Fastballs. If you look at Haren’s velocity on fastballs they go down, basically every year, from 2007 on. In 2012, his Fastball was averaging 88.5 MPH, or roughly 2 MPH slower than Stephen Strasburg’s change up. Not. Good.
What’s worse, is that he stopped throwing the 2 Seam Fastball. Look at the percentages in the top chart. He really bailed on that type of pitch, throwing it less than 5% of the time. Pitching success is about being able to throw pitches and mixing them up. With Haren’s injury, it’s clear he was throwing slower (not great, but not the end of the world) and also his variety changed. As Baseball Prospectus put it for me (I’m cribbing here) without a strong fastball to set up his cutters and splitters, batters don’t have to worry about it. They can just sit tight on one of the last two, knowing it’s coming.
That’s how it would go wrong for Dan Haren this year. As I mentioned with Detwiler, the loss of any Starter this year (or the inability to perform) is going to hurt because the Nationals don’t have a lot of extra arms down on the farm that perform this role. Haren’s injury if it resurfaces, or if he simply is no longer the pitcher he was, would be a big problem for the Nationals every 5th day.
If It All Goes Right: At his best, Dan Haren is good enough to start a playoff game for the Washington Nationals, and no one would blink an eye. With a very good fielding team and decent offense, Haren could easily get 12-15 wins under his belt.
Starting Rotation: Ross Detwiler
Outfielders: Bryce Harper, Denard Span, Jayson Werth
Catchers: Wilson Ramos, Kurt Suzuki
Infielders: Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche
Bench: Tyler Moore, Roger Bernadina
Bullpen: Ryan Mattheus
Callups: Part I, Part II