Dan Haren’s Under-the-Radar Peak

Out in Hollywood, or even out in Hollywood of Anaheim where the Angels play, it can be easy to slip under the radar if you’re no longer the “it” thing. That may be the case with Dan Haren this season, and understandably so. A trip to the Angels’ spring training complex in Tempe this weekend saw a stadium draped in promotional banners sporting the visages of new stars Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson as well as home-grown hero Jered Weaver.

Haren has opened up spring training in midseason form, striking out 10 batters in his first five innings after an excellent start Tuesday. Of course, a great spring training doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but Haren dominating hitters is nothing new. For the last seven seasons Haren has excelled regardless of team — Athletics, Diamondbacks and now Angels. This timeframe spans his age 24 through 30 seasons, and only a few pitchers have matched or eclipsed what he’s done in that age range in recent memory (defined, for this exercise, as any pitcher who played in any season after 1990):

Rk Player SO/BB ERA+ IP SO From To GS ERA HR/9 H/9 BB/9 SO/9
1 Pedro Martinez 5.26 191 1438.0 1777 1996 2002 203 2.42 0.66 6.58 2.12 11.12
2 Dan Haren 4.30 123 1581.1 1368 2005 2011 237 3.49 1.01 8.55 1.81 7.79
3 Johan Santana 4.25 153 1471.2 1504 2003 2009 211 2.88 1.00 7.30 2.16 9.20
4 Greg Maddux 3.66 162 1691.2 1247 1990 1996 231 2.51 0.39 7.58 1.81 6.63
5 CC Sabathia 3.51 137 1588.1 1417 2005 2011 229 3.22 0.74 8.30 2.29 8.03
6 Roy Oswalt 3.44 137 1480.1 1191 2002 2008 221 3.17 0.74 8.80 2.10 7.24
7 Roger Clemens 3.28 149 1737.0 1595 1987 1993 233 2.88 0.55 7.62 2.52 8.26
8 Mike Mussina 3.25 127 1443.1 1143 1993 1999 210 3.70 0.99 8.54 2.19 7.13
9 John Smoltz 2.82 124 1557.0 1394 1991 1997 226 3.31 0.73 7.74 2.86 8.06
10 Frank Viola 2.63 123 1771.2 1258 1984 1990 250 3.38 0.90 8.55 2.43 6.39
11 Bert Blyleven 2.57 122 1665.0 1263 1975 1981 224 3.12 0.68 8.12 2.65 6.83
12 Orel Hershiser 2.33 132 1457.0 1011 1983 1989 191 2.69 0.46 7.66 2.68 6.25
13 Tim Hudson 2.20 125 1514.2 1023 2000 2006 226 3.56 0.78 8.57 2.76 6.08
14 Tom Glavine 1.93 127 1524.2 1018 1990 1996 226 3.22 0.53 8.52 3.12 6.01
15 Dave Stieb 1.79 131 1695.2 1082 1982 1988 241 3.27 0.79 7.83 3.21 5.74
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/13/2012.

Only 14 other pitches can boast 1400 innings pitched, an ERA+ over 120 and 1000 strikeouts as part of their age 24-30 campaigns. Haren has had his demons — specifically the home run ball — that haven’t, for the most part, affected the other nine pitchers. Still, Haren’s peripheral numbers have been so fantastically good — tied for the best walk rate with Maddux, trailing just Sabathia, Clemens and Smoltz for strikeout rate — that he’s managed to keep runs on the board on a level equal to some Hall of Fame level pitchers and others who opened their career on a Hall of Fame path. Haren’s 4.30 strikeout-to-walk ratio from ages 24 through 30 is only bettered by Pedro Martinez (5.26) and Ben Sheets (4.83) all time.

Whether it’s been the big three of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito in Oakland, Brandon Webb in Arizona, or Weaver and Wilson in Anaheim, Haren has managed to find himself disguised by bigger names throughout his career. Nevertheless, Haren enters his age-31 season with the chance to extend one of baseball’s best and most underrated peaks in recent history, and he could end up being the true star of the Angels’ rotation in 2012.




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31 Responses to “Dan Haren’s Under-the-Radar Peak”

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  1. jj says:

    “trailing just Sabathia, Clemens and Smoltz for strikeout rate ”

    Isn’t he also behind Pedro and Santana?

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  2. Mac says:

    Minor quibble. In Oakland, Haren may have been in the shadow of the Big Three, but he never actually pitched in a rotation with Mulder or Hudson. It was in fact Mulder who was traded to St. Louis to acquire Haren (and Daric Barton and Kiko Calero).

    Zito was still around in ’05 and ’06, but Haren was a clear ace in the rotation. That 2006 A’s squad doesn’t get enough recognition, and the story line always starts with the revived Frank Thomas. But the A’s don’t make the playoffs that year without Haren.

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    • Atom says:

      “It was in fact Mulder who was traded to St. Louis to acquire Haren”

      A fact I think about every night as I cry myself to sleep.

      Signed,

      A Cardinals Fan

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  3. Oliver says:

    Haren’s 2011 season might have been much more appreciated had Pujols and Morales been in the lineup, particularly in the first half. Take a look at his game log when he did not win prior to the all-star break:
    4/1 ND 7 6 1 1 0 6, Angels lose 1-2
    4/22 L 6 5 4 2 3 6, 3-4
    4/27 ND 7 3 1 0 2 5, 1-2
    5/3 L 7 9 4 4 0 8, 3-7
    5/8 ND 6.2 6 2 2 1 10, 6-5
    5/14 ND 7.2 6 2 2 0 5, 3-2
    5/19 ND 8 3 1 1 4 5, 1-2
    5/24 L 7 7 5 5 1 6, 1-6
    6/7 L 7 8 3 3 1 6, 1-6
    6/18 L 4 7 6 6 1 2, 1-6
    67.1 60 29 27 13 59
    His numbers in that sample: 3.60 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 13/59 BB/K
    In those ten games the Angels scored exactly 1 run six times, 3 runs three times and mustered 6 runs once for a total of 21 runs.
    His luck wasn’t as bad in the second half but I still think there’s reason believe Haren is due for a career high in wins. If he tops 20, there’s a decent chance he’ll be a little less underrated this time next year.

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  4. Oliver says:

    Maybe I’m totally off here, but sorting the table by SO/BB makes Haren look better in comparison than he otherwise might. Also, why use ERA+ instead of FIP+? Otherwise, totally agree, Haren is underrated.

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    • Steve C says:

      ERA+ is arguably better than using FIP+ for something like this because the samples are large enough (1000+IP) that some of the difference between ERA+ and FIP+ could be attributed to the pitcher and are not just random variation anymore.

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      • JDanger says:

        This is true, but there is a bit of cherry-picking going on here. Not to take anything away from Haren, an excellent and certainly under-appreciated pitcher, but this is a bit of a contrived series of qualifications: >1400IP, >120 ERA+, >1990, age 24-30, then sorting by K/BB.

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  5. Delino DeShields says:

    Man alive, Pedro was freaking amazing. I believe that was the HR era, too, which makes that HR/9 even more fantastic.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Pedro’s 5-year peak is probably the best pitching performance ever once normalized for era. IIRC his peak was great % above average than any other pitcher’s peak.

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      • Jon L. says:

        So true. Bill James wrote a short piece in his Historical Abstract about what made Pedro better than everyone else – he basically illustrates the analogy Pedro : other pitchers :: human brain : primate brain – that’s one of my favorite pieces of writing on any topic. Worth a look if those numbers tap your sense of wonder.

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      • Daniel Del Bosque says:

        @ Jon L.

        Do you have a link for that article? I’d love to read it.

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  6. KCExile says:

    Really surprised to see how bad he’s been snake bit by the gopher ball over the past several seasons. He’d be undisputed legit ace if he could get that in line with some of the other guys on this list

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  7. Brad says:

    Ahh Ben Sheets….if you could have just stayed healthy

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  8. TX Ball Scout says:

    Homer prone.

    I like him tho.

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    • ettin says:

      Not really as big an issue considering he pitches in pitcher-friendly Anaheim with a future gold glove CF and two former gold glove CF’s playing in LF and RF.

      This should be a very solid year for Haren.

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  9. CircleChange11 says:

    I’m pretty sure among female fans in LA, Haren is still “it”.

    As for everyone else, there can only be so much attention splashed around and when you’re competing with Halladay, Verlander, Strasburg, etc it can be hard for a guy like Haren to get his share of the limelight.

    I do, on occasion like to dream about a rotation of Carpenter, Haren, Wainwright, Garcia and Miller. A quality pitcher for all ages of fans.

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  10. jim says:

    haren has also passed mariano rivera for the active K/BB lead with 4.042 to mo’s 4.040, and is now 4th all-time and 3rd post-1900. truly outstanding

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  11. Marc says:

    What are his chances for the hall of fame (not necessarily making, but being deserving)? I don’t think he’ll make it because he hasn’t done enough at his age, but he has the type of skill set that ages well and he’s always been incredibly durable. Personally, if he finishes his career with 50-60 WAR, I’d still root for him to be inducted even if he didn’t deserve it. I love Dan Haren; he’s the best pitcher on that staff, he’s an ace that’s been super overlooked, and I’m still upset that we dealt him for such a light package.

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  12. Matty Brown says:

    I’ve always been a huge fan. Most underappreciated pitcher of the past half-decade.

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  13. jim says:

    here’s something else really cool about haren: 3.59, 3.59, 3.57, 3.55. one of those is his career ERA, one is his career FIP, one is his career xFIP, one is his career SIERA.

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  14. Bob says:

    You know what’s funny to me is, the Cardinals traded him (plus others) for Mulder, as if they had no idea Haren *could* be a star.

    Prospect evaluators (esp. Baseball America, who never had Haren in their top 100 prospects) graded him as if *they* had no idea he could be a star.

    And yet, Haren’s entire MLB career, in every meaningful detail, is *exactly* what he did over multiple seasons in the minors:

    1) Very durable
    2) Lots of K’s
    3) Few free passes
    4) Homer-prone

    Amazing that St. Louis has won two championships since making perhaps the stupidest trade of the modern era. (And I do mean stupidest, not merely the most lopsided.)

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Let’s look at some things …

      1. StL just came of a WS losing season in 2004.
      2. Needed a LH-SP (or so they thought)
      3. Had 5 established RH-SP
      4. Had Adam Wainwright blazing through MiLB
      5. Haren had produced ~1.4 WHIP and 6 K/9 in 115 MLB IP with StL. To say that he’s “always” been the pitcher he is a stretch.

      StL traded him for a pitcher projected for 3.5-4 WAR … for a team that just went to the WS. That’s a good trade for a 100 win team looking to upgrade pitching rotation.

      2005 – the “dumb” team lost in the NLCS … then won the WS in 2006. StL was easily the best team in baseball from 04-06.

      Dan Haren got REALLY good during his last year in OAK and 1st year in ARZ. He wasn’t a <1.2 WHIP, 8 K/9 pitcher in StL.

      The Cardinals should be penalized for being dumb for trading Haren the same amount they should be rewarded for being smart due to drafting Pujols after 400 other players were selected.

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  15. BVHeck says:

    nitpicking, i apologize, but Haren was never overshadowed by Mulder. He was traded for him, so they never played on the same team. What a terrible trade…

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  16. Jason says:

    Is it wrong that I whistfully sigh whenever I see Pedro’s peak?

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  17. Joebrady says:

    Too much emphasis is put on the IPs. By making it 1,400, you’ve effectively eliminated most of the league, and kind of arbitrarily compared him to guys famous for not much more than good health. What would happen if you lowered it to 175/season?

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