Webb or Haren?

The Diamondbacks have been a disappointment so far this season, failing to distance themselves from their NL West rivals on several occasions. Now, with a month and a half remaining, they face the serious possibility of losing the division and missing the post-season. None of these woes can really be attributed to Brandon Webb or Dan Haren, however, as both pitchers have been fantastic this year.

A couple months ago that I would take Webb over Haren in a crucial situation but that there weren’t any other twosomes I would want to headline my rotation. Granted, a CC Sabathia/Ben Sheets twosome may give them a run for their money now that Sabathia is in the senior circuit, but Webb/Haren have both put together great seasons. Which one is having the better year right now, though? Even though we know and understand that W-L records are terrible evaluative barometers, it’s pretty hard to look at Webb’s 18-4 mark and completely disregard it. That’s what we need to do, however, to get a clear picture of everything. Here are some comparisons:

Webb: 2.85 ERA, 1.11 WHIP
Haren: 2.96 ERA, 1.03 WHIP

Webb: 177 IP, 154 H, 9 HR
Haren: 167 IP, 143 H, 14 HR

Webb: 7.37 K/9, 2.14 BB/9, 3.45 K/BB
Haren: 8.41 K/9, 1.56 BB/9, 5.38 K/BB

Webb: 2.96 FIP, .291 BABIP, 72.8% LOB
Haren: 2.91 FIP, .291 BABIP, 74.3% LOB

Webb: 2.12 WPA/LI, 2.66 REW, 26.73 BRAA
Haren: 3.23 WPA/LI, 3.14 REW, 31.68 BRAA

The first two comparisons may lean towards Webb, but after that it is pretty tough to argue that Haren has not been the better pitcher to date. He doesn’t walk anyone, has a great strikeout rate, isn’t posting an unsustainably high strand rate, and his BABIP isn’t abnormally low either. On top of that, his context-neutral contributions are over one full win better than Webb, while his wins based on shifts in run expectancy are almost a half-win better.

One of the aspects I touched on last time dealt with Webb having better numbers in high leverage situations. That has not changed:

Webb: .200/.260/.264, .524 OPS
Haren: .289/.317/.447, .764 OPS

The caveat to this, however, is that Webb has 126 PA in these situations and Haren only has 84. Haren doesn’t seem to be as good under the pressure but he has been good enough this season to avoid these pressure situations. Granted, some of this is also contingent upon the defense and game state but you may be inclined to think that the better a pitcher is, the less high leverage situations he would find himself in. It won’t be true in all cases, but if a pitcher is constantly in the midst of high leverage situations—and he isn’t a late inning reliever—that means runners are constantly reaching base and posing legitimate run-scoring threats.

Just 12.6% of Haren’s PAs this year have been of this nature whereas Webb is under pressure 17.4% of the time. Take from that what you will, or take away nothing from it. If nothing else, it is interesting to note. It looks like Haren has performed better than his sinker-balling teammate this year even though most people are going to be swayed by Webb’s impressive W-L record and slightly lower ERA. Don’t be fooled, though… Haren has been just as effective, if not better. If they do manage to make the playoffs this twosome could prove huge in their World Series chances.

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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

10 Responses to “Webb or Haren?”

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  1. willkoky says:

    10 more innings might not seem like much but I think it should be counted as a plus for Webb. 1/3 of the time Webb gets you an extra inning of bullpen rest over Haren.

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  2. Tom Au says:

    Haren is a “finesse” pitcher who doesn’t look terribly impressive–until you look at his numbers rather than his form. That’s why Webb looks “better,” even though he isn’t.

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  3. How come you guys always use FIP, instead of xFIP? If you look at luck metrics such as BABIP and strand rate, shouldn’t HR/F also be looked at and adjusted for, which xFIP does? Unless there’s new research out now that HR/F is actually more controllable by the pitcher than recent research had suggested, I figure xFIP is a much better stat than just FIP.

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  4. Nate says:

    The Dbacks announcers are always noting that Webb has had more errors made behind him than any pitcher in baseball. That might help explain the pressure situation stat a bit.

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  5. shoewizard says:

    [i]The caveat to this, however, is that Webb has 126 PA in these situations and Haren only has 84. Haren doesn’t seem to be as good under the pressure but he has been good enough this season to avoid these pressure situations.[/i]

    1.) Webb has 3 CG. He has also gone 8 innings 5 times. Haren has Zero CG, and has only gone 8 innings 3 times.

    2.) Haren has received 5.42 R/G in support. Webb has received just 4.87 R/S. Fewer runs means closer games, means higher leverage.

    A couple of other points:

    Webb has induced 20 DP, compared to Haren’s 7. If you do a “net WHIP” taking out 20 baserunners from Webb’s total and 7 from Harens, the WHIP comparison becomes .994 to .988 in favor of Haren…..but by the thinnest of margins.

    Webb’s ability to pitch deeper into games, and to shut it down in the late innings when the outs are tougher to get in higher leverage situations are the reason he has more wins than Haren, despite receiving over half a run less in run support.

    There are lots of ways to slice this up, but when you look just a little deeper, it’s not hard to poke holes into the notion that Haren has been better than Webb. And as far as the future is concerned

    Game 7 of the world series. Pen is GASSED from a long playoff run. Who do YOU want on the mound, Webb or Haren?

    For me it’s an easy choice.

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  6. Alex says:

    Its Haren. I mean look at the significant difference in K rate, BB rate, and K/BB rate. Webb does get his GB, witch gives him a minor advantage in tRA, however the other stuff just outweighs this.

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  7. shoewizard says:

    Alex, I just don’t think you can wave away Webb’s ability to go deeper in games on a much more consistent basis. It’s a significant advantage, and a real factor in winning and losing games.

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  8. Sucker Bets says:

    Is there any truth to the statement:

    Webb’s ability to pitch better than Haren in the high leverage “pressure” situations, is a key factor in his much better W-L numbers? Is that a way of saying he comes thru more in clutch situations, leading to more team wins? He is a good deal better in those numbers. Both are .500 in the ND’s.

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  9. shoewizard says:

    You can call it whatever you want. I’m not calling it clutch.

    I think the GBDP ability is a pretty big factor in those situations. I also think Webb has better stamina, or stuff, late in games. I think it’s more physical than mental. When Webb gets tired, he just gets a bit more sink. When Haren gets tired, his FB gets extremely straight and hittable, and he starts spiking the splitter. That opinion was formed from observation this year, but it is backed up by the numbers. Haren has struggled a lot more after pitch 100 than Webb has, (especially this season but for career as well)

    Look at it another way. The D backs are 19-7 in Webbs starts and 17-9 in Haren’s starts, despite the fact that Haren has such a significant run support edge of 5.55 vs. 4.87 for Webb. Now you can perhaps try to make a case that the bullpen behind Haren has been worse, and it probably has…….but……he has left more outs on the table to be gotten by the pen late in games than Webb has, so of course he is going to be more vulnerable to the occasional pen failures.

    In almost every way you want to quantify these two, they have been very close. But the two big differences have been the frequency of going deep in games, and the performance late in games and high leverage situations. Thats where Webb has been a lot better than Haren this year, and thats why the team has won a higher percentage of his starts despite providing him with far fewer runs.

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  10. I’d must check with you here. Which is not something I normally do! I appreciate reading a post that will make people today feel. Also, thanks for permitting me to comment!

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