Dan Haren’s New Friend

When Dan Haren was traded from Oakland, some questioned whether his abilities would transfer as well in a non-crater ballpark. A shift to the National League probably helped and Haren’s home run per fly ball rate was never unspeakably low, but those questions have been put to sleep with back-to-back golden seasons. Haren recently topped the 200 innings mark for the fifth consecutive season and he’s got a nice little trend occurring with his strikeout per nine ratios:


His overall strikeout percentage has increased right alongside his per nine ratio and right now he’s striking out about a quarter of all batters faced. Combined that with a career low walk ratio and it’s no surprise that his FIP is the second best of his career; an uptick in fly balls and downed infield fly ball percentage has his tRA at the third best.

Sky Kalkman detailed the usage and recent fascination of the cutter in baseball here. Go ahead and add Haren to the list of users. Baseball Info Solutions has a career high 22.4% of Haren’s pitches being thrown as cutters. This pitch – sitting 86-87 – has enough velocity separation from his fastball and slider that I would guess it’s not a case where a pitch is being misclassified. Haren’s cutter represents his best pitch on an overall run value and per 100 basis:

wFB: 11.4 (0.83 per 100)
wCT: 18.0 (2.66 per 100)
wCB: 0.2 (0.03 per 100)
wSF: 9.1 (2.28 per 100)

Gameday is identifying a sect of Haren pitches as a cutter as well. The difference is the usage. Gameday says 6% which is a pretty drastic differential. Just eyeballing his slider velocity (GD: ~83-84, BIS: 80-81) it seems one or the other is mixing up the sliders and cutters. I’d guess the algorithm is the one mixing things up here, but the pitches do look pretty similar minus velocity, so maybe his true usage lays somewhere in the middle of the two percentages.

Whether the success is fully wedged on the implementation of a cutter or not, Haren is certainly doing something right.

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9 Responses to “Dan Haren’s New Friend”

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  1. joe says:

    As far as i am concerned, a “cutter” with that much difference from his fastball is simply a hard slider, even if its gripped like a cutter. A true cutter is no more than 3 MPH off the regular fastball speed.

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  2. This data is from the all-star break, so the exact numbers are no longer precise, but the general information they indicate is still valid.

    Since Haren was traded, his Cutter usage has increased from 1.6% at 88.4 MPH to 6.6% at 87.8 MPH to 17.5% at 86.5 MPH. Haren has gone from rarely going the cut fastball to utilizing it almost 20% of the time. Over this period, Haren has clearly refined the quality of the pitch, as it has almost quadrupled in runs/100 pitch value from 1.7 to 6.5 in just 3 years. In plain english, this means that Dan Haren’s cutter, per ever 100 times it is thrown, has prevented approx. 6.5 runs or garnered the Diamondbacks about two-thirds of a win in value.

    Alas, despite the increasing usage/quality of his Cutter, it still is not Dan Haren’s best pitch. That pitch still remains, and increasingly is, his fastball. Dan Haren has a sick fastball that, on average, breaks 10.5 inches down and 6.5 inches in on hitters. Such disgusting movement, as one would expect, has led to the best fastball in the majors by a quarter of a win margin (Haren’s 18.5 runs/100 pitch value on his fastball is the best in the majors; second is Zack Greinke at 16.3).

    So what is to attribute to Haren’s successes this season? Let’s create a checklist.
    1) Sick control. Dan Haren’s 7.43 K/BB leads the majors
    2) Sick command. Dan Haren’s 1.17 BB/9 also leads the majors
    3) Improving pitches. This season, Haren’s fastball quality has almost doubled in value, while his cutter has continued to improve and his split finger fastball is back to form (from -1.4 runs/100 pitchs to +4.5)
    4) A four plus-pitch mix. Each of Dan Haren’s four pitches (fastball, cutter, curveball, splitfinger fastball) have positive runs/100 pitch values and good mixture (none is thrown less than 13.8% or more than 48% of the time)
    5) A very lucky 84.5 LOB% and .239 BABIP, although the Diamondbacks do have the 8th best defense in baseball right now

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  3. Andrew says:

    Gameday’s pitch classification is extraordinarily bad. I wouldn’t use it for analysis if you want any kind of accuracy.

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  4. Nick says:

    Here are all of the pitches that Haren has thrown this year:


    As you can see there is a lot of blending, but you do have some decent clusters. It definitely appears that BIS is closer than Gameday is, as his slider and cutter are basically the same pitch.

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  5. CaR says:

    Agreed Andrew, its terrible. Useful for large sample charting and tendencies, silly for any sort of one game analysis. Wasn’t it the basis for claiming Lincecum was finished after 2 starts this year? Hmm, I wonder if some of those guys who chirped in that thread would like to restate their positions?

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  6. Mike Fast says:

    That sure looks like a cutter to me. It’s about 3 mph slower than his fastball, with a vertical spin deflection of 5-8 inches. That’s classic cutter territory.

    The other thing I look at to determine cutter vs. slider is whether the spin deflection and speed distribution for the pitch falls closer to a pitcher’s fastball distribution or his curveball distribution, assuming he throws a curveball. A slider will tend be closer to the curveball, and a cutter will tend to be closer to the fastball. Haren’s curveball is already pretty slurvy, and even still, the distribution of this pitch falls somewhat closer to his fastball. Ergo, cutter.

    In early 2008, the pitch he threw was 7-8 mph slower than his fastball, with a vertical spin deflection of 0-6 inches. That’s a pretty classic slider.

    He’s definitely throwing a new/different pitch now as compared to then.

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  7. joser says:

    Man, that title and not one Scarface reference?

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  8. joe says:

    I think its time to invent a new type of pitch: A cut-slider, slutter. A real cutter is thrown about as often as their fastball, and moves about the exact opposite of a 2-seam. “Cutter’s” like Haren’s are out-pitches, like any other breaking ball, not something you throw as your bread and butter. Thank Josh Roenicke for giving me the idea.

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  9. Slurve says:

    Honestly I was hoping for the splitter so I could make a bad pun out of it… SAY HELLO TO MY SPLITTER FRIEND!

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