Nationals Baseball: DL Haren

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

DL Haren

Is he really injured? No, probably not. But it's the way you save face for pitchers doing badly that you don't want to outright cut.

Fancy Stat Time!

BABIP (ranges between .250 - .325) 
Career: .292  This year : .319

HR/FB (6%-13%)
Career:  10.8%  This year: 15.5%

LOB% (66%-80%)
Career:  72.9%  This year: 67.9%

On some level you want to believe he should turn more toward the averages, both of his career and baseball in general, and be better.  But these things aren't wildly off. Ok, maybe a few more balls stay in the park, but the BABIP, the LOB%? These could easily be the sign of a bad pitcher, too. They are in the range so it's not like it HAS to come back down.

K/9, BB/9
Career 7.58 / 1.88  This year : 7.09 / 1.49

Career :  42.8% This Year : 34.9%

The strike-outs and the walks might fool you.  His control seems great and he's striking out enough guys not to be worried about it. But the GB% tells the story. He's not fooling anyone here. He can't get anyone to hit the ball down anymore.

Why is that? Ben Duronio at Fangraphs explains it nicely.  Nearly everything Dan Haren throws is in the upper 80s. Guys can time pitches when they have the speed down. They may be fooled still by a pitch with good movement but they aren't going to be off-balance anymore. They are just hacking away at what Dan throws (11th in pitches swung at by opponent). We talked about this earlier but in 2011 when his FB velocity started to come down, he moved to a cutter that was devastatingly effective. At the time his FBs averaged 4.7 MPH faster than his cutter. Now it's 3.4.

To show you in another way how much pitch speed matters, here are two pitchers stats for balls (O-swing is precent of times the opponent swings at pitches outside the strike zone, Z-Swing is inside, others should be self-explanatory)

O-Swing 32.7%, Z-Swing 67.2%, Swing 49.5%, Contact 81.5%
O-Swing 34.6%, Z-Swing 63.5%, Swing 50.0%, Contact 82.6%

OK Guy #2 here is doing a little better perhaps because guys are swinging at more outside stuff and less inside stuff, but the numbers are pretty similar enough that you'd expect them to be relatively the same.

Guy #1 is Dan Haren
Guy #2 is Cliff Lee

Now check out pitch mix and (speed)

FASTBALL - 37.0% (89.2), CUTTER 40.4% (85.8), CURVE 3.7% (77.6), SPLIT FINGER 18.9% (84.8)

FASTBALL - 57.9% (90.7), CUTTER 19.5% (86.9), CURVE 8.1% (74.5), CHANGE 14.1% (84.2)

Cliff Lee's cutter is 3.8 MPH slower, Haren's is 3.4. Not too different. His change is 6.5 MPH slower, Dan's split is 4.4. That's a big difference. Lee's curve is 16.2 MPH slower. Haren's curve is 11.6. Big difference again. What's more is that Lee actually thows that curve more than twice as often as Dan throws his. Toss in the occasional 81MPH slider and Lee has a repertoire that can keep a hitter unbalanced.  It doesn't matter that they can "hit" Lee because they aren't hitting him well. The same can't be said of Haren.

This stuff matters as much as pure velocity. Jamie Moyer in his Phillies years had a fastball that averaged around 81MPH but because he could work in a 75 MPH chance and a 69 MPH curve 25-30% of the time he kept hitter off balance enough to survive.

Why not just pitch everything else slower? Sorry - doesn't work that way. For almost every pitcher you throw pitches at speed X. That's where you feel comfortable. That's where it works for you. That's where you have the movement and control you like. You've learned this over years and years of pitching. You can't just say "oh I'm going to throw my change 2 MPH slower because I lost 2MPH on my fastball."

Could Haren throw the curve more? Perhaps. But it's never been a great pitch for Haren. It would require him to be a different type of pitcher. One that doesn't look to set up a great cutter or slider or fastball, but instead really pitches to every batter never relying on a single pitch to get him out of trouble. It's a different mindset really.  And he'd need time to figure out how to do this. Say 15 days at least, maybe 60.


Here's a nice visual interpretation of pitch speed differences from Brooks Baseball.


Erich said...

I guess it's also a question as to Haren's replacement. Ohlendorf? Maybe an improvement? Maybe the same? Maybe worse. I'm not sure.

Todd Boss said...

DL Haren ... and start who?

Yes we all know Haren has been awful. Who takes his place? Duke? Nope. Karns? He got lit up in his 3 starts. Ohlendorf? He had ERAs in the 7s and 8s over the last two seasons and would make Haren look like Cy Young. Maya? Not after getting outrighted off the 40-man roster. Chris Young? If you can't get out AAA hitters i doubt you can get out MLB hitters either. Stammen? He's great in middle relief; had an ERA in the 5s when he was a starter a few years ago.

Hey, how about Matt Purke! Lets call him up; he's on the 40-man roster.

Harper said...

To both - Ohlendorf for the time being. Then Rosenbaum.

There comes a time when "We have to keep doing what doesn't work, because the alternatives may be worse" doesn't play anymore. There comes a time were you have to embrace the "may be" part because you KNOW the current situation is not working.

Erich said...

Fair enough. I can accept that reasoning and don't disagree. So the debate becomes when do we think this actually might happen. I think we've got at least three more Haren starts.

bdrube said...

I've been wondering when Haren is going to go on the DL with an acute case of suckitus like Wang did for much of last season--but the Nats really do not have any good options. Ohlendorf? Please--for years he's been worse than Haren is right now. Rosenbaum's peripheral stas just scream out fresh meat for the sharks. Taylor Jordan is like Karns in still being way too raw. Young stunk it up at AAA and is hurt now anyway.

Since the Nats are paying Haren all that cash, they might as well keep trotting him out there and hope he figures something out that makes him a little less awful. And the LAST thing we need is a system-depleting trade for a rent-a-starter in what is turning out to be a lost season.

Too bad we don't still have that servicable starter who still had one more year of team control after last season. What was his name? Oh yeah, John Lannan--the guy who outpitched Haren last night.

Matt said...

I think the real question (related to Haren and a few other players) is when do the Nats start going for variance.

I have absolutely no proof, but my suspicion is that wins get more "valuable" (from the perspective of the team/GM) the more of them you have -- so most teams would rather win 90 games 1 season and 70 the next rather than 80 both seasons. The total wins is the same but 1 way the team probably goes to the playoffs, and the difference for the fans, etc. between 70 and 80 wins isn't that big a deal (anyone else feel a big difference between 2010 and 2011? I guess there was the whole nearly to .500 thing but I can't say I cared much except insofar as it was a good sign for a better 2012).

Anyways, if my unsupported BS is true, then at some point this season Rizzo starts going for players who have more variance to increase the odds of getting to the playoffs, even if the expected number of wins drops. (Incidentally, I think this was basically what Bowden was doing when he was chasing "toolsy" -- that word still makes me shudder -- players. Everyone knew the Nats would stink, so he'd go take risks in the hope of catching lightning in a bottle).

Anyways, I don't think the HRod/Duke/Espinosa moves were about variance, since most of those players had established pretty well that, this season at least, they were not going to be better than potential replacements. I still think Haren has a higher expectation than the alternatives, and so you don't make a change (short of a trade which brings in new talent to the system) until the variance play is the right one.

And if the Nats are going for variance, I think there are a couple of other moves which they might want to make as well (no more Lombo in the OF comes immediately to mind).

Harper said...

bdrube - no all good options have been traded away or broke down. I don't trust Ohlendorf or Rosenbaum either but sometimes you just luck into an Aaron Small 2005 situation.

I agree no deal should be made unless it is transformative moving forward. Is it a good idea to rely on luck? No. But the Nats are out of good ideas. Haren is almost 50% done with starts this year. You have to cut losses at some point.

Matt - interesting thought, I'm not sure. It's hard because if everyone is healthy there is no where to put these players. The Nats are set. The only place I can see is a rotating trial at the #5 slot for the young pitchers they like.

And I would say H-Rod was about variance, except that was having him on the team, not kicking him off for an Abad.

Miles Treacy said...

I'm curious how long it will take to get to the "we need to try something" moment with Rizzo. He doesn't like eating his mistakes, and often sticks with players way too long. I'm still just a littel confused over the off-season moves. For so long, we were credited with having a great farm system and drafting wisely and developing talent. Then Rizzo got a taste of playoffs and just splurges on Soriano and Haren. I agree that the Morse trade was a correct one, but obviously his bat has been missed with the bench sucking it up. I'm just curious why we invested money in Haren and Soriano and didn't use that money on a better FA starter. The bullpen still would have been wide open with Gorzo, Burnett, and Gonzalez all leaving, but it's just getting really hard to watch Haren struggle to get to the 5th every start. At least Jackson ate up innings which is what a #4 and 5 starter is supposed to do, but our offense (though not great last year) was better than this year.

Miles Treacy said...

but no matter how much i bitch about haren and off season moves, it comes back to monday's post. OFFENSE

Anonymous said...

Harper, as someone who would like to know more about the statsy side of baseball analysis, but who doesn't know where to begin, this was great. It showed how these numbers were relevant and explained what they reveal about Haren's play. This is why I keep coming here as a Nats fan, and a fan of baseball in general.

blovy8 said...

Easy answer as to why Rizzo picked Haren was that he would come for one year - the other old pitchers wanted multiple years, were worse, or more injured. He seemed to be his old self the last two month of 2012, which seems to have been an illusion in retrospect, but he's had a solid career that did not rely on speed, or even deception particularly, mostly just command. I'm not convinced that 6.5 mph is a good amount of difference for Lee's change. I think he needs his control just as much, because all you ever hear about is that a change up needs to be 8-10 mph different in speed from the four seamer to get misses reliably. The only star pitcher I can think of who's also made that work otherwise is Sabathia, and he has excellent control too.

You can make the case that Ohlendorf's new delivery n'stuff changes how his results may be going forward. It's probably worth a shot. If you have to stick Haren in the bullpen to see if he can maybe get something going, it wouldn't be terrible, it's only money, and someone has to mop up.

The window for Harper's return making a difference is getting smaller by the day.

At least you can't kick Tracy for a day.

Froggy said...

Great in the weeds a analysis or more accurately, autopsy on the corpse Harper. I think a 5.72 era 4.8 record and your points seriously makes the case why you must give Ohlendorf a shot.

We are under .500 Harper will probably be out another week and Haren just plain sucks after 2-3 innings. I agree with blovy8...put him in the pen a d see how he does comming in as a middle innings guy.

JonQuest said...

This is great insight into why Haren isn't the guy he used to be. This explains a lot of why he's a lousy starter this year rather than a really great 5th starter.

But, the reason it's an issue is because of a previous post. We are producing no offense. The DBacks are winning their division and their 5th guy is Ian Kennedy who's similarly bad. Why? Cause the DBacks actually hit on occasion so when the team pitches well they win.

I'm tired of every pitcher having a great outing against the Nats. That tells me that the Nats can't hit. We make pitchers look awesome. Cliff lead was masterful last night because we didn't swing at strikes.

I'm also tired of waiting for Bryce. Where's Zim and LaR to carry the offense with Bryce injured? It just seems like we have the opposite of timely hitting this year.

We should not need Haren to be great. We just need the offense to be average and we'd be in a much different situation this year.