A scouting report on Dan Haren

From 2005 through May 2012, Dan Haren was about as reliable a starter as there was in the big leagues. In mid-2012, however, a back injury threw him off rhythm and led to his first DL stint. In five starts beginning June 9, Haren’s ERA was 8.67 with a .695 opSLG. Outside of those five starts, his season ERA was 3.55.

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Repertoire

  • Sinker: 88–91 mph. Used against lefties and righties alike. Thrown most often early in the count or when behind. Keeps it away from hitters, and tends to throw it fairly high in the zone. This could explain a below-average ground ball rate on the pitch. Velocity has dropped somewhat the last several years. Does not have a great amount of lateral or vertical movement.
  • Cutter: 84–87 mph. Most common pitch, especially to righties. Pounds the low outside corner to righties and down and in to lefties. Has also lost velocity in recent years. Above-average lateral movement. Good whiff rate.
  • Splitter: 82–86 mph. Third most-used pitch. Saw increased usage in 2012. Typically used when ahead and with two strikes. Has lost effectiveness as a swing-and-miss pitch since 2009 (from 40% to about 25%). Still has by far the lowest BAA and ISO of any of his pitches.
  • Curveball: 76–79 mph. Thrown with a “spike” grip. Has gone from being a main weapon to a little-used “show me” pitch. Often used to “steal” strike one against lefties. Almost never used against righties at all. Not a great amount of depth, although it has some lateral movement.
  • Four-seam fastball: 88–90 mph. Infrequent offering. Sometimes used as a two-strike pitch against lefties.

Defense-independent pitching

Haren’s most distinguishable asset is his control; he typically walks less than 2 batters per 9 innings. His strikeout totals are average, but his SO/BB ratio is still outstanding. He gives up a fair amount of home runs, however, so his FIP is good but not amazing. His career BABIP is .291, indicating no unusual trends in that department.

He has historically been a very durable pitcher; he started at least 33 games and logged at least 215 innings for seven straight seasons (2005–2011).

Potential red flags

  • His solid mechanics should protect him against serious arm injuries, but the back stiffness issue was enough of a concern to lead the Chicago Cubs to scrap a deal for Haren early this offseason.
  • His velocity has declined consistently for several seasons and could continue to do so in 2013. Haren has never been an overpowering pitcher, and pitchers can be effective without great speed. Still, all things being equal, faster pitches get hit less often. It will be essential for Haren to command his pitches, or else he will start getting hit hard.

Other tidbits

  • For a pitcher, Haren is an excellent hitter. He is a career .223 hitter with 21 doubles in 264 at-bats.
  • His fielding is decent. His range is limited, but he makes few errors (.972 fielding percentage).

Outlook

Haren is probably in line for a resurgent 2013 season. He will have the benefit of playing the National League again, an offense that should provide good run support, and a good bullpen behind him. If his back stays healthy, he will be a valuable addition to the Nationals rotation.

Baseball Reference, Baseball Prospectus, Brooks Baseball, and FanGraphs were eminently helpful in the making of this post.