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.

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