A Two-Win, a One-Win and a Half-Win Fastball

At the all star break the only two win-20 runs saved-pitch is Dan Haren‘s four-seam fastball (Tim Lincecum‘s change is knocking on the door). All-star Dan Haren not only has the game’s best four-seam fastball, but he also has one of the game’s best cut fastballs (worth one win) and one of the game’s best split finger fastballs (worth half a win). Haren throws a good curveball, too, but for the most he succeeds throwing a variety of different, all great, fastballs. As we saw earlier Jamie Moyer throws a couple different fastballs, but none is as good as any of Haren’s. Jon Lester (four-seam, two-seam and cut) and Carlos Zambrano also succeed throwing a range of different fastballs. Here is the movement on Haren’s pitches.

haren_pitches

Haren’s four-seam fastball averages just over 90 mph and has big ‘rise’ and tails in to RHBs. His splitter ‘drops’ in comparison to his four-seam fastball with the same vertical movement as a sinking two-seam fastball. The difference is that a two-seam fastball tails even farther in to RHBs (larger horizontal movement) than a four-seam fastball, while a splitter has less horizontal movement. Haren’s splitter averages about 85 mph. His cutter has slider-like movement and averages 86 mph. He added the cutter this year, replacing a slider he felt was not as effective in Arizona’s low humidity.

Here is his usage pattern and a summary of some stats for each pitch. Zone is the percentage of time he throws the pitch in the rule book zone (using pitchf/x data) and whiff is the number of swings and misses per swings.

+-----------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
|           | v RHB | v LHB |  Zone | Whiff | GB/BIP|
+-----------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+
| Four-Seam |  0.40 |  0.55 |  0.53 |  0.14 |  0.35 |
| Cutter    |  0.36 |  0.09 |  0.44 |  0.36 |  0.50 |
| Splitter  |  0.11 |  0.08 |  0.35 |  0.39 |  0.62 |
| Curveball |  0.13 |  0.28 |  0.52 |  0.26 |  0.47 |
+-----------+-------+-------+-------+-------+-------+

The four-seam fastball is his bread and butter, he can get it in the zone with regularity. Against righties his main secondary pitch is the cutter and against lefties the curve. Against both it looks like his splitter is his out pitch. It is rarely in the zone, but gets huge whiff and GB rates-a nasty pitch to throw when ahead in the count. Haren continues to be one of the game’s best pitchers and this year he gets it down throwing an array of hard offerings.



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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.


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Tim A.
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Tim A.

Thank you for this analysis. Not that Haren was bad last year(he was actually really good), but I wanted to point out that the major difference between previous years of Haren and the 2009 version, which you talk briefly in your article.

I think that Haren scrapping the slider vs. RHB and throwing the cutter to RHB has lead to the dramatic change in Haren’s output from previous years.

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