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.


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AJS
Guest
AJS

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?

Bob
Guest
Bob

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.

AA
Guest
AA

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)

DavidCEisen
Guest
DavidCEisen

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!

DavidCEisen
Guest
DavidCEisen

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

Aaron
Guest

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

bonestock94
Guest
bonestock94

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

Brad Johnson
Member

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”.

Joe
Guest

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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