Dan Haren’s Commanding Start

The Angels’ Dan Haren pickup is looking great; early in the 2011 season Haren has been one of the game’s best pitchers. He has been the beneficiary of some BABIP and HR/FB luck. Still, the underlying peripherals are amazing, including a league-leading 13.5 K/BB and 2.80 xFIP.

Through his first four starts, and one appearance out of the pen during an extra-innings game, Haren is throwing his cut fastball much more than he did in the past. By my classification of the PitchFx data he is throwing it just under 40% of the time (the BIS classifications for yesterday’s game have not been updated at this time). Here are the locations of all those cut fastballs so far this year.

The glove-side cut of the pitch takes it away from right-handed batters and into left-handed batters. There is a tight pattern of pitch locations showing Haren’s great command of the pitch. He rarely leaves it up in the zone and most of the pitches are right on the glove-side edge of the zone.

Haren is throwing his fastball 35% of the time this year. Here are the locations of those pitches.

Again you can see the relatively tight pattern of locations, concentrating on the outside edge of the zone to both right- and left-handed batters. This gives Haren two pitches that he can throw for a strike almost whenever he wants, but at the same time often miss the heart of the plate. Against LHBs he concentrates the two pitches on different sides of the plate — inside with the cutter and outside with the fastball — a great combination to keep lefties off balance.

Obviously Haren will start giving up more hits and home runs, but he will still be a great pitcher (since 2005 only Roy Halladay has a better K/BB). Although the Angels will have their problems in 2011, it looks like with Haren and Jered Weaver they will have a great top to their rotation.

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

20 Responses to “Dan Haren’s Commanding Start”

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  1. AJS says:

    Interesting. Matthew Berry (ESPN’s TMR) of all people made the following observations:

    - In 30 innings pitched with Mike Napoli behind the plate last season, Dan Haren’s ERA was 4.20.
    - In 44 innings pitched with Jeff Mathis behind the plate, Haren’s ERA was 2.25.

    Small sample size caveats aside, could it be that having Mathis catching all Haren’s starts is making a big impact?

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    • Bob says:

      Maybe Scioscia knows something about catching after all.

      Yes, the Angels have flaws but it’s not nearly as bad as writer’s on Fangraphs regularly trash them for.

      Lastly, why don’t more pitcher’s throw cutters? Is it a hard pitch to master? It seems that a lot of times that the addition of the cutter to a pitcher’s arsenal is mentioned when there is significant improvement in performance.

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      • AA says:

        Not every pitcher has their pitches move the same way. For some, a cutter works great, not so for others. It seems to really work well for guys who throw hard to begin with (Haren, Rivera, Billingsley)

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Yeah I’m sick and tired of Fangraphs kicking around the Angels. They are so biased I bet they won’t even mention that Haren is off to a headscarf or the he and Jared Weaver form a great 1-2 in the rotation!

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Whoa iPhone autocorrected ‘hot start’ to ‘headscarf.’ I guess my thumb missed the spacebar.

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      • Aaron says:

        But that still doesn’t explain why the Fangraphs writers haven’t mentioned that he is off to a headscarf!

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      • bonestock94 says:

        30 and 44 innings are tiny sample sizes, it doesn’t mean anything

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      • Brad Johnson says:

        Developing a good cutter is kind of like learning a change up. Whereas learning a curve, slider, or split is almost instantaneous (at least from a movement perspective, control and execution can take awhile to master), learning a cutter involves playing with grips and different feels until one results in a nice pitch.

        I learned my cutter pretty much by accident while trying to reduce pressure on a blister during practice. It quickly became my bread and butter. I had been trying to throw one for three years with little to no previous success despite working with a couple dozen subtly different grips and arm actions. All of a sudden, I found a pitch I could start at a RHB’s hip and get a called strike on or in the middle of the plate to a LHB that broke off the plate.

        The best cutters can get slider-like movement without the telltale “dot”.

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    • Joe says:

      There were similar stats about Jorge Posada and the Yankees pitching staff (namely, that he sucked and they sucked when he sucked). Normally I don’t buy into these types of things, but it seems to be working.

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  2. Arthur Xavier Corvelay says:

    Having had him in fantasy a number of times, I’ve noticed that Haren usually gets off to a fast start. It’s finishing that is his problem. Although last year he actually pitched better after the All-Star Break, in the 3 years prior to that he’s been like the Morneau of pitchers.

    1st Half / 2nd Half Splits (ERA/ WHIP):

    2007 – 2.30, 0.997 / 4.15, 1.5

    2008 – 2.72, 0.955 / 4.18, 1.373

    2009 – 2.01, 0.808; 4.62, 1.258

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  3. Carl says:

    This, in Haren’s case, has been pretty thoroughly explained to my satisfaction as a three-year stretch of bad BABIP and related bad luck down the stretch. I’m not worried about him as a first-half player. I’d happily start him down the stretch.

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  4. Paul Thomas says:

    That trade was seriously unbelievable. I mean, Joe Saunders, one decent-not-great pitching prospect, and a couple of relief arms?


    For Dan Haren?

    He’s been an absolute ace for three and a half seasons, and he’s got superhuman durability on top of it. What the hell were they thinking?

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    • DonCoburleone says:

      Yeah seriously.. My question is where the F were the other 29 teams in baseball when Arizona made him available? He’s got a great contract and is a legit Ace, there’s no excuse for not getting more in return than they did.

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      • jirish says:

        I have heard that when Arizona told him they were going to trade him, he did request that they try to trade him to a west coast team. There are a few organizations that actually care about their players on a personal level, and Haren has never been anything but a solid professional, and he actually was well liked by the organization I can see part of it being simply the Diamondbacks doing their best to accommodate a player. Oh, and Arizona really likes that pitching prospect too.

        As far as the other 29 teams, Haren did also come with a hefty long term contract-he’s worth it, but still-some organizations just weren’t in the position to add those dollars to their books. Taking the money off of Arizona’s books was also a big part of his being traded.

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      • phoenix2042 says:

        As a Yankees fan I keep asking myself why the Yankees only pursued (and failed) acquiring cliff lee when haren and oswalt were out there??? and even worse, why trade for berkman from the astros and not ask about oswalt and then complain they never told you he was available??? they led the league in runs scored and decided picking up berkman was a better deal than haren or oswalt, even though they had only one or two pitchers they could count on…

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      • Young Gung says:

        Phoenix, lol, you know the Yankees, if the contract’s not for an absurd amount of money they won’t do it. They probably seen how cheap Haren’s contract and got bougie.

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  5. uclarob says:

    Dave- “Through the his first four starts” should remove the “the”?

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  6. Andre says:

    As an Angels fan, love the trade, love Haren, love the article. More articles on the Angels please!

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  7. Travis says:

    With Bourjos roaming CF, Haren and (especially) Weaver may outproduce their FIP/xFIP.

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