Why MLB Teams Aren’t Big Dan Haren Fans

When I was putting together my Trade Value series, my preliminary version included Dan Haren. A good pitcher on a good contract, not yet 30, and durable as can be, I figured he would draw a lot of interest if the D’Backs put him on the market. Then, while hanging out in Anaheim, I started talking to friends in the game about the list, and a consensus quickly emerged – they were not nearly as high on Haren as I was.

After a series of conversations that all went the same way – “He’s okay, but I wouldn’t give up any of those guys for him, or a bunch of other guys you didn’t include” – I dropped him from the list. It just became obvious that Haren’s trade value wasn’t as high as I thought it would be, given his performances the last few years. Regardless of where his xFIP ranks, he wasn’t seen as any kind of ace by the people who actually were putting rosters together.

Now, a day after he’s been traded for about the same amount of value as Philadelphia gave up to acquire Joe Blanton two years ago, it’s probably time to ask why. Why is there a massive divide between the teams and the online baseball community when it comes to how good Haren is and what he’s actually worth?

As best as I can tell, it comes down to two issues – velocity and home runs. While Haren’s walk rate and strikeout rates are excellent, his home run rates have always been a bit of a problem. Of the 56 qualified starting pitchers over the last three calendar years, Haren’s 1.11 HR/9 ranks just 40th. He has done a good enough job at limiting baserunners that his longball issues haven’t been a huge problem, but giving up bombs is one of the easiest ways to look bad in front of scouts.

To us, a home run is simply -1.4 runs in the ledger, a mistake that may or may not be predictive of future success. To a lot of scouts, allowing a home run is a sign that there’s a problem with what you’re throwing. Some pitchers, such as Josh Beckett, can overcome this stigma by impressing with raw stuff – a 95 MPH fastball, a big 12-6 curve that buckles knees.

Haren, on the other hand, doesn’t have that kind of repertoire. His fastball is more 88-92, and he relies heavily on a 86-ish MPH cut fastball to keep hitters off balance. So, when he centers one of his average velocity fastballs and it gets blasted over the fence, it’s easy for scouts to assume that Haren is always going to give up a lot of dingers. It’s hard to be impressed when the radar gun says 89 and the ball went 450 feet.

So, Haren gets lumped into a group of pitchers that includes James Shields, Cole Hamels, Javier Vazquez, and Ricky Nolasco – guys who some teams believe throw too many strikes. Several of these teams believe that these guys are too willing to throw one down the middle in order to keep their walk rates down, and it leads to too many home runs and a package that is viewed as more of a good pitcher than a great one.

There may be some truth to those feelings. Perhaps Haren would be better off walking a guy here and there rather than pounding the zone no matter the situation. Since he doesn’t throw 95, maybe putting a 3-1 fastball in the strike zone isn’t always such a great idea. I think they make an interesting argument.

I don’t agree with their assessment of Haren’s overall value, but as we saw yesterday, the actual price for Haren was far lower than the expected price. If you’re wondering why, this is the best explanation I can get. To MLB teams, limiting walks and striking out hitters are nice, but you can’t be an ace if you give up a lot of home runs.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Nathan
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Nathan
6 years 1 month ago

Still, you’d think some MLB team would recognize that a guy whose K/9 has risen every year in the bigs (at a well-documented 9.00 right now) and whose xFIP has been under 4.00 every season since 2004 is an elite pitcher, especially given that he pitches in a home-run haven.

V
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V
6 years 1 month ago

Well, the Yankees certainly seemed interested in acquiring him, after acquiring Javy Vazquez in the offseason.

Mike Green
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Mike Green
6 years 1 month ago

Fergie Jenkins did win a Cy Young in there, but then he was winning 20 games. I think that the “pitcher win” statistic still is perceived to be of significance within MLB and Haren has never won more than 16 games and his typical W/L record has been homely.

Brendan
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Brendan
6 years 1 month ago

I’m surprised AA didn’t get involved in this at all, could have easily topped the Diamondbacks offer and Haren is one of the guys Toronto could have looked to build around. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t recognize the value in Haren..but then I don’t understand why he couldn’t build a package around maybe Litsch, Rzepcynski, or Stewart, or 2 of them…can’t be any worse than what they got from the Angels.

Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
6 years 1 month ago

I blame ESPN. They are always propagating the myth that Dan Haren is a first-half only guy, despite the minute xFIP splits

WY
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WY
6 years 1 month ago

But if you look at the actual results (ERA, hits allowed, HR allowed), he was worse in August and September every year from 2006-2009 than he was in the first four months. I understand the rationale behind FIP and xFIP, but four years in a row suggests there is some sort of pattern that might not be captured in those more advanced metrics.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/splits?playerId=5565&type=pitching3&three=1

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/splits?playerId=5565&type=pitching&year=2006

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
6 years 1 month ago

I find it strange that 4 years of actual data would be trumped by 4 years of FIP.

The obvious explanation isn’t “Haren gets unlucky in the second half, and his team plays inferior defense”, right?

Nathaniel Dawson
Member
Nathaniel Dawson
6 years 1 month ago

Last time I checked, FIP was based on actual results: HR, BB, K.

Aaron/YYZ
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Aaron/YYZ
6 years 1 month ago

Falacy. If you have enough pitcher-seasons, one of them is bound to have this sort of “bad luck” divergence in ERA and FIP four seasons in a row. Same thing as the possibility of somebody in baseball history having a 56-game hit streak.

WY
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WY
6 years 1 month ago

“Last time I checked, FIP was based on actual results: HR, BB, K.”

That is correct. But those aren’t the only results that can be used to analyze someone’s performance. Furthermore, xFIP is NOT based entirely on actual results.

Anyway, it could be a fluke, but why are people so quick to assume that it is merely a fluke and that there isn’t more behind it? I thought that was the point of Dave Cameron’s post, and I think he is raising some good questions. It is dispiriting to see how many people use SABRmetric stats (e.g. FIP or xFIP) as an excuse to simply ignore the possibility of other factors playing a role.

Also, the correct spelling of that word is “fallacy,” not “falacy.” Although I’m not sure the word applies in this case.

Jake
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Jake
6 years 1 month ago

@Aaron: Not sure your logic completely follows here. Sure, if you have enough seasons, someone is going to have a 56-game hit streak. But it’s going to be someone who is a hell of a hitter (e.g. DiMaggio). Similarly, someone is going to have four straight seasons with marked drop-off in the second half of each, but it’s probably going to be someone who has issues.

Jeffrey Gross
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Jeffrey Gross
6 years 1 month ago

heck, had I known he was so cheap, i’d have advocated the Cubs get him. Even though I don’t think the Cubs will compete over the next 2-3 seasons, Haren is just too good to pass up if he comes at 30 cents on the dollar. he’s a top 10 pitcher

Robert D
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Robert D
6 years 1 month ago

Over the last three years, Haren has been pitching in AZ, a notoriously home run friendly ball park. Are teams really that deft to not consider park weighting? Maybe the inexperience of the D’Backs front office allowed themselves to be convinced that this is ALL they could get for Haren. What baffles me most is that we’re talking about a team that no longer has pressure on it to perform this season. We all know the D’Backs aren’t going to win this year and if the league wide perception of Haren’s value was that low, how the F did the D’Backs not say “we’ll just keep him instead?” Jerry Dipoto’s first major move as GM may rank higher on the “WTF” scale than the hiring of Wally Backman as manager.

Steve
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Steve
6 years 1 month ago

Except over the last 3 years he’s given up more HRs on the road than at home. 34 home, 35 on the road.

Alex
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Alex
6 years 1 month ago

Doesn’t mean his home/road HR split wouldn’t have been 20/35 in another park.

We can tell another story for Haren’s splits: Chase Field is so homer-friendly, it negates the improvement pitchers see in their home field performance.

Micah Owings went from 17/17 in 250 IP for the Dbacks to 8/13 in 150 IP for the Reds. Not a stud pitcher, and this is pen-on-napkin analysis, but you get the idea.

chuckb
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chuckb
6 years 1 month ago

His HR/9 aren’t that much higher than they were when he pitched for the A’s.

AA
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AA
5 years 6 months ago

Deft = Smart. Daft = What you were trying to say.

PL
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PL
6 years 1 month ago

You cant blame the A’s for trading him.

and, Id say that Blanton bounty is better than this. Josh Outman will have a nice career once hes recovered from TJ.

BX
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BX
6 years 1 month ago

I think the Angels’ package for Haren is worth a good bit more than what the Phillies gave up for Blanton.

Remember, Outman was in the pen when the A’s traded for him. They put him back in the rotation. And, Cardenas is not an elite prospect. Nor are any of the Angels’ guys, but yeah.

Although, if Dave’s and your evaluations of the two packages were to be believed, I really wish the A’s had jumped in this and outbid the Angels.

Even if the two packages are comparable (which they are), the A’s really should’ve jumped in. Pitching is the A’s strength, but a horse like Haren would really solidify the rotation, especially since its not a good idea to rely on an injury-prone Brett Anderson.

Doubting Tom
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Doubting Tom
6 years 1 month ago

To be honest, I just don’t think professional evaluators consider xFIP and other home run normalized pitching statistics the way people do here.

I consider home runs, in effect, to be a measure of “mistake pitches.” Yes, over the course of a game, a person can be completely dominant, and one pitch out of 110 hardly matters in and of itself. But it’s how many curves you hang, how many sliders that don’t break, how many change-ups that don’t dart away per game that ultimately makes the difference, and xFIP kind of ignores that.

I think FIP is a more reliable pitching statistic for that reason.

don
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don
6 years 1 month ago

Haren’s career xFIP, FIP, and ERA are 3.61, 3.69, and 3.71 respectively, so over the course of his career it doesn’t really matter which you’re looking at. I think it comes down more to his high ERA this year alone than anything else.

mettle
Member
mettle
6 years 1 month ago

What surprises me is that, xFIP aside, his “standard” numbers are also really really good. A <3.5 ERA and 200+Ks for 3 years running and 200IP for 6 are understood to be good enough to be a 1/1A starter on almost every team, and even if he performs at a worse level, he would still be worthy of 'workhorse' status and at least a #2/#3 starter. Indeed, almost every news outlet, including ESPN and others that are even less SABR-friendly (your hometown paper) are reporting this as a major steal.
It's to the point that it seems that there's something else going on. Maybe age plus contract, maybe something the scouts and/or doctors see physically but aren't telling anyone, maybe a GM buckling under pressure to just do something…
This isn't about SABR vs. old-schools stats. Both are good in this case.
This seems to be about something else.

Steve
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Steve
6 years 1 month ago

Agree, except his ERA stands at 4.60 this year. Not saying teams should be looking at that, but if they were, it could be why they were less willing to offer more.

After all, he did bring back quite a haul in 2008.

If the D-Backs had traded him before this season, they probably would have gotten more.

mettle
Member
mettle
6 years 1 month ago

I hear you, but I think everyone (with a job in baseball) would (should) agree – whatever your stats proclivities are – that 1/2 season does not outweight 3+ years.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
6 years 1 month ago

It’s important to note that Haren’s struggles go back to the 2nd half of 2009 as well.

So, technically, it’s “2 half seasons” in “two seperate years”, adjacent to each other. So, one calender year.

I see where that could be decline, fatigue, oncoming injury, or whatever. But, I also see “Dan Haren” and a ridiculous .350 BABIP.

We see what happened to Jimenez when his BABIP regressed to career norms, haren could have the same regression, only going in the “productive direction”.

Brian
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Brian
6 years 1 month ago

I think what your seeing with Haren as is the same with the other guys mentioned in the article is that despite the so called great numbers on the periphery Haren, Shields, Vasquez, Hamels are all pitchers who have struggled at the top of the rotation. I think it is fair to call of these good pitchers and but not great and not worth trading high level prospects for. Numbers are like words they only matter if the actions meet the words. In these players case they are basically all talk.

Bill
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Bill
6 years 1 month ago

Hamels did win a world series (and pitched like an ace) while at the top of the rotation.

Alex
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Alex
6 years 1 month ago

And Shields was 1B to Kazmir’s 1A during the Rays’s 2008 run to the World Series. Shame that he’s struggled since then.

NBH
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NBH
6 years 1 month ago

“So, Haren gets lumped into a group of pitchers that includes James Shields, Cole Hamels, Javier Vazquez, and Ricky Nolasco – guys who some teams believe throw too many strikes. Several of these teams believe that these guys are too willing to throw one down the middle in order to keep their walk rates down, and it leads to too many home runs and a package that is viewed as more of a good pitcher than a great one.”

This interests me a lot. As someone who is “all-in” on the guys with super K-BB ratios (including Baker and Beckett), I’m starting to think that I need to pay a lot more attention to HR/9. Their good control may also be why they oftentimes have inflated BABIPs as well – hitters are basically always swinging at strikes.

Jesse
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Jesse
6 years 1 month ago

Haren’s career BABIP sits at .304, just about as average as it gets. To put this in a bit of perspective, Tim Lincecum with his filthy stuff has a .305 career BABIP.

Vode
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Vode
6 years 1 month ago

I haven’t actually looked this up, but I’d imagine batters put fewer balls in play against Timmy than they do against Haren.

Darien
Member
6 years 1 month ago

It looks like you’re right — what I’m seeing is that 30% of Haren’s strikes get put into play, against 26% for Lincecum.

xeifrank
Member
6 years 1 month ago

Unlucky with the BABIP, HR/FB and LOB% this year. Over 6.0 WAR in 2008 and 2009. Walk rate is up a little this year. Not sure your “friends in the game” are correct on this one.

spindoctor
Member
spindoctor
6 years 1 month ago

Awful trade. Even if teams don’t evaluate Haren as an ace and merely a good pitcher, the package (have the mentioned who the prospect is yet?) is just not even close — 30 cents on the dollar may be too much to credit the D-backs front office with getting!

I can’t believe they felt this is the BEST they could get. This move will definitely go down as one we will talk about for a long time, for all the wrong reasons.

Choo
Member
6 years 1 month ago

So GM’s in big parks have a bigger advantage than we originally thought when it comes to cost control. It’s one thing to take a low-k, fly ball pitcher off the scrap heap, drop him in a big park, and squeeze positive value out of his home starts, but it’s something different altogether when you can get a really good pitcher for scraps simply because he has fly ball tendencies.

swheatle
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swheatle
6 years 1 month ago

Couldn’t you say the same thing regarding batters in hitters parks or defensive outfielders in large parks?

Choo
Member
6 years 1 month ago

Not to the extent of the fly ball pitcher.

– For hitters, there is always a constant. Sure, run environments change, but the good hitters and bad hitters remain in relation to one another regardless of venue – every hitter gets positive X in Arlington and negative X in San Diego. In other words, park dimensions can’t really help widen/close the gap between Skip Schumacher and Albert Pujols unless.

– As for outfielders, I agree for the most part. As the outfield grows in size, range becomes more valuable. But similar to the hitters, there is a constant. Regardless of the park, the bad outfielders are bad and the good outfielders are good. There is no crossing over.

– But there is plenty of cross-over for fly ball pitchers. Sure, all types of pitchers receive a boost/reduction in big/small parks, but in relation to other types of pitchers (groundball, strikeout/walk, however you want to categorize them), fly ball pitchers receive the most significant boost/reduction with no exceptions really.

jkrell1212
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jkrell1212
6 years 1 month ago

adrian beltre

Andy
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Andy
6 years 1 month ago

Dave, I wonder if the post-season changes the way contenders perceive a HR guy like Haren. It’s clear from his stats that he is a dominant starter. However if a team visualizes him giving up HRs in the post-season, which can really swing the momentum of a game and potentially a whole series, that could affect perception of value. I’d be interested to know if there is a correlation between HR rate and post-season success when you control for confounders.

Gary
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Gary
6 years 1 month ago

James Shields, Cole Hamels, Javier Vazquez, and Ricky Nolasco.

I heart all these pitchers.

wobatus
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wobatus
6 years 1 month ago

And I love Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum, Zack Greinke, Ubaldo Jiminez and Johan Santana. That was my fantasy staff last year. With Tommy hanson as my spare.

I know, know one cares about my fantasy team. But they sure as hell are better than Vazquez, Nolasco Hamels and Shields usually. Although Johan is a flyball/no-strikeout pitcher this year, he seems to be getting it done with no peripherals recently. Haren the opposite.

Jason B
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Jason B
6 years 1 month ago

“I know, know one cares about my fantasy team.”

True dat!

V
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V
6 years 1 month ago

I’m glad you had a good pitching staff in your 6 team league.

Now join a real (20 team) league ;-)

wobatus
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wobatus
6 years 1 month ago

That was my staff last year. 12 team league. I dropped Jiminez. Doh!

Just joking around y’all, but I have to say that I do think that guys like Nolasco, vazquez, haren, etc., while pretty damn good and saber-darlings, are not quite as good in real life, or at least as perceived by scouts and management, as guys like, picking ones who aren’t on my fantasy team, Halladay, Verlander, Josh Johnson. Well, pretty much all agree Halladay and Johnson are great. verlander’s xfip is worse than Haren’s this year, and over their careers, but likely that fastball just gets him more respect.

Nolasco and Vazquez re interesting cases, with their e.r.a.’s generally below their ex-fips. There was a recent article on them here saying perhaps they have problems out of the stretch. Haren has been more in line with his xfip, recent history excepted, but he had a couple of lowish hr/fb years and when that rises it hurts him a bit. The AL may see him back at his A’s level of E.R.A. than his early D-Back years.

Anyway, apologies for the faux bragging. I lucked out. That was my best staff since John Smiley/Ben McDonald/Melido Perez in 1992. Which shows how awful my pitching usually is.

Kimo
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Kimo
6 years 1 month ago

Thanks for another top notch article and I think you have made a great point about the disconnect between “real” baseball and some of the fans. I think in this case there may be another contributing factor that depressed Harens market – the Diamondbacks finances. We think about values based on WAR or other standards and say Haren is at value. The owners may have said cut future commitments and still try to sell some tickets.

The perception that Haren is not a true #1 starter and the clubs demand to cut future payroll, all on top of an apparently down statistical year doomed the trade value of Haren. This package from the Angels may truly have been the best available and criticism of the temporary GM may need to be eased.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
6 years 1 month ago

The perception that Haren is not a true #1 starter

Well, he’s only the DBacks’ #1 when Webb is injured. Historically, he’s been a “helluva #2” (insert joke here).

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
6 years 1 month ago

Given Haren’s performance over the 2nd half of 2009 combined with the 1st half of this year, there is definately something “going on”.

His control numbers are better (+K, – BB), but his “getting hit” numbers are way up to. As strange as it sounds, I wonder if he is “in the zone” too often? … or at the very least when he misses his spot, he misses in the zone, as oppossed to out of the zone. So, if he is trying to locate his slider on the outside corner, he misses over the middle of the plate, instead of missing 5 inches off the corner? That’s the difference between “control” and “command”. Missing out of the zone results in a ball, missing over the plate results in a well-struck ball.

It really does make me wonder if there is some concern about Haren and injury and/or deterioration. If that be the case, that would result in AZ having 2 well-paid guys struggling to pitch.

I think Haren will rebound, but I also note that of Haren’s prevoius 6 WAR season, I’d bet 4.5 (at least) of that came in the 1st half.

Combining 09’s 2nd half with ’10’s 1st half, you probably have a 3WAR pitcher (still market value). I believe the concern is that he’s on the downslide, perhaps from pitching so many innings (6 straight 200+ ip seasons).

If you keep him while the downslide continues, you get even LESS for him in trade.

Haren’s performance will definately be worth watching. But, what we’re seeing is simply not “a bad half of a season”. There’s a little more to it.

Darien
Member
6 years 1 month ago

I’m seeing that, so far this season, Haren’s strikes are slightly up — 67% of his pitches are going for strikes, against a career average of 65%. How meaningful this is isn’t clear to me, though, since fewer of his strikes are being put into play (28% against 30%).

The one thing that I do see pretty clearly in Dan Haren’s numbers for this year (besides that high BABIP) is that he’s allowing more fly balls and more of this fly balls are going for homers.

maqman
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maqman
6 years 1 month ago

This makes the deal more understandable, although I also think he is over rated personally. As a Mariner fan I don’t see this move making the Angels that much stronger in the future as he’s somewhat suspect. For now they don’t need him to beat the Ms but after this tear I’d rather have Pineda.

ledavidisrael
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ledavidisrael
Guest
ledavidisrael
6 years 1 month ago

Same Hr/9 Rate. Haren has more K’s and less walks.

Rally
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Rally
6 years 1 month ago

Before the year a lot of people thought the Angels had a rotation full of #2-3 starters. At this point they’ve got two #1’s in Weaver and Haren (It’s hard to come up with a list of 30 pitchers better than they are), and a pair of #2’s in Pineiro and Santana (rank between 31-60 among all MLB starters). Then you get Kazmir, or Bell, or maybe Matt Palmer gets another shot. Guys struggling to be replacement level.

GrouchoM
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GrouchoM
6 years 1 month ago

LOL that you actually think Pineiro is a #2.

swheatle
Guest
swheatle
6 years 1 month ago

With the Mariners he was #2 :)

philosofool
Member
Member
philosofool
6 years 1 month ago

I don’t agree with the premise of this argument that teams are using scouts opinions the way that this article claims.

Scouts are good at seeing what a guy can do with his stuff. But they don’t understand run values of events at all. The result is that scouts still undervalue a pitcher who doesn’t walk many guys, put too much emphasis on velocity, too much emphasis on home runs, undervalue sinker ballers, still assume that hitters will develop the ability to take pitches, etc.

I don’t think many scout would be able to tell you whether a 2BB/9 and 7k/9 pitcher is better or worse than a 9k/9 guy with 3.5bb/9 (given the same home run rate.) Scouts don’t quantify guy’s ability, and don’t understand the relative weight of a players.

Front offices don’t (all) see things the way their scouts do. You can recognize that your scouts provide valuable information without taking that information at face value. A smart team will see that Haren is better than their scouts think because he’s one of the pitchers whose ability to succeed depends on skills that scouts don’t value well.

don
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don
6 years 1 month ago

The idea has been offered up that K-BB rate may be a better indicator than K/BB rate, so in your example the two really may be close to a wash, assuming they’ve got the same home run rate. (Of course the higher K & BB pitcher will throw a few more pitches per inning)

http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/strikeout_walks_ratio_or_differential/

philosofool
Member
Member
philosofool
6 years 1 month ago

I don’t know of any interesting metric that uses K/BB ratio as an input. 3 ks and 1 bb per nine gets you the same as 9 k and 3 bb per nine; the latter is a much better pitcher (assuming same GB%).

If you wanted to use a linear function only of the two, I’d go with some constant -.28*K + .41*BB, since those coefficients are (IRRC) the linear weight values of an out and a walk (which, BTW, is basically what FIP does, except that it has a third term for HR).

moyerLIVES
Guest
moyerLIVES
6 years 1 month ago

I’d be a lot more worried about having a pitcher who gets more than half of his batted balls hit in the air playing in front of that wobbly outfield.

Joey B
Guest
6 years 1 month ago

For those that keep referring to AZ as a HR haven, in the time Haren’s been there, they’ve allowed 238 HRs at home and 210 on the road. That’s 53%/47%. Given the fact that Haren’s allowed more on the road than at home, how much of a disadvantage can that amount to? Even if you took 3% off of his home total, that would reduce his 2.5 year total from 69 to 68.

John Franco
Guest
John Franco
6 years 1 month ago

All he needs is a bloody sock and then he’ll be loved… like another pitcher with an insane K/BB rate and a semi-ugly HR/9 rate.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
6 years 1 month ago

That thought crossed my mind (Haren similar to Schilling). So, I looked up what their differences might be in the 2.5 seasons they pitched in AZ.

Over the 2.5 seasons that they have pitched for AZ, they are comparable in some aspects.

HR/9: 1.09 (Schil), 1.06 (Har)
BAA: .230 (Schil), .243 (Haren)
BB/9: 1.37 )Schil), 1.64 (Haren)
K/9: 10.6 (Schil), 8.8 (Haren)
K/BB: 7.72 (Schil), 5.33 (Haren)
WHIP: 1.03 (Schill), 1.13 (Haren)

Schilling performed better because he strikes out a lot more batters, and fewer guys reach base (Duh).

THE problem is how bad THIS year is for Haren (and that the 2nd half of last year was similar) …

Haren 2010 …

BAA: .279
HR/9: 1.47
WHIP: 1.35

Those numbers are not good. It should also be pointed out that a lot of his BAA and WHIP increase would be due to an insanely high .350 BABIP (.304 career).

It will be interesting to see if Haren regresses toward career norms. If he does, this could be a MAJOR plus in the favor of using BABIP. If he was at career norms this year, that would be ~20 fewer runners due to hits.

Folks could take that and compute what his likely WHIP and ERA would be (with 20 fewer hits). This has TONS of potential agony for the DBacks, when/if Haren regresses to dominance.

Mark
Guest
Mark
6 years 1 month ago

The thesis of this article is quite plausible, but if so it’s a real indictment of the state of major league front offices this far into the sabermetric age. Scouts are quite valuable, as far as they go, but the bottom line is that by the best indicator of REAL performance (xFIP), Dan Haren has been a top-of-the-line elite pitcher for 2.5 years running now. xFIPs of 3.21, 3.08 and now 3.38 in a tough ballpark for fly ball pitchers speaks for itself.

For all we know, the wind may have been blowing out strongly during a disproportionate # of his starts in this small sample of a half season. We do know that 4 of his 23 homers (17%) happened on one night in Colorado. Occam’s Razor still says that his numbers this year are a fluke, and the Angels took advantage of it. Bully for them.

philosofool
Member
Member
philosofool
6 years 1 month ago

That was my first thought. Upon rethinking it, I think this article basically gets it wrong about why Haren sold so low. I just dont’ think that Boston or New York or Tampa Bay wouldn’t look at this deal and say “We should beat that offer for Haren.” AZ didn’t handle the trade right and got fleeced. Dipoto is new to his job and there’s no reason to think that didn’t simply drop the ball.

Alex
Guest
Alex
6 years 1 month ago

Maybe they couldn’t have easily beat the value that Arizona perceived they were getting from LA. It doesn’t matter if we think an offer built around one of those teams prospects is better than what the Angels offered. All the matters is what the Dbacks think, and they’ve apparently been very high on Skaggs since the draft last season. Considering his performance this year as an 18 year old in the MWL, they probably view him as at least a top 50 prospect, if not higher.

Alex
Guest
Alex
6 years 1 month ago

Its a real indictment of the internet baseball community that they place so much trust in a simplified model like xFIP. xFIP assumes all pitchers regress to the same HR/FB rate, but that’s clearly not correct. Many guys will stay above or below average in that regard throughout their career. 1367 IP with Haren having a worse than average HR/FB rate. xFIP is always going to overrate a pitcher like Haren, especially when his HR/FB rate is as high as its been the past year. Teams aren’t necessarily wrong to assume his skills have declined to the point where his HR/FB rate will now be terrible going forward instead of merely bad.

WY
Guest
WY
6 years 1 month ago

Thank you, Alex. There’s so much more to evaluating pitching than what can be captured in this sort of stat. These stats have value, but when people start to treat them like the gospel and the last word (dismissing other methods of evaluation), I just have to shake my head. It’s a very myopic way of looking at things.

baty
Guest
baty
6 years 1 month ago

Agreed…

His GB rate has experienced a consistent slide the last several years, and why should anyone assume that his growing K-rate is sustainable, which it needs to be if he continues to evolve towards a fly ball pitcher with extra base hit tendencies.

Haren is good, but he doesn’t warrant the confidence that these simplified projections present.

Players enter and leave phases regularly, and Haren has had numerous phases within his pitching repertoire. If you consider that each stop included a very different pitch selection and approach, I’m not sure what it means for him in the near future considering his recent inconsistencies. Haren has yet to stick with something for more than the last 2 years, so how do we know ANYTHING about his statistical sustainability.

philosofool
Member
Member
philosofool
6 years 1 month ago

You provide no basis for this comment whatsoever. You just say that of course scouts know best.

Haren has a career 3.6 xFIP and a career 3.7 ERA. His ERA has been below 3.5 for the last three years before this one. He has one off year and you’re writing him off? This sounds like foolishness.

Alex
Guest
Alex
6 years 1 month ago

Who said that of course scouts no best? All I see is people saying that perhaps scouts see something that makes them think the spike in Haren’s HR/FB is a worry going forward. I don’t know if that’s the case, but I’d certainly defer to scouts on the subject as opposed to just assuming that he’ll get back to being the same old guy. Since August of last year his HR/FB by month has been 17.4%, 12.8%, 18.2%, 18.5%, 5.6%, and 16.7%. Isn’t it possible there is an explanation besides luck for such a bad performance over a 222 inning sample size?

baty
Guest
baty
6 years 1 month ago

Why does it have to be about writing him off? Personally I just think he’s a solid #2… a top 25 arm in the near future.

Daern
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Daern
6 years 1 month ago

Baty–there are 30 MLB teams. A top 25 pitcher is not a “solid #2”. He is a legitimate #1.

Clooch
Guest
Clooch
6 years 1 month ago

I kind of skimmed the comments so it may have been brought up already.

I think some of this disconnect may have something to do with his extremely unorthodox mechanics. That exaggerated pause in the middle may lend itself to deception but it may lead some with a scouting background to believe he’s more of a smoke and mirrors type of guy. If you’re getting by with anything other that traditionally filthy stuff, I’m always wondering when the other shoes is going to drop.

Alex
Guest
Alex
6 years 1 month ago

The one thing that a lot of people seem to be missing is that the Dbacks really like the package they got. Obviously, they are a lot higher on Corbin and Skaggs than the internet consensus. Thus, while it seems like that other teams could have offered more value easily, that is only relative to our opinions of the players involved, not how the Dbacks value them. I bet that Skaggs is a top 50 guy and Corbin is a top 100 guy in their opinion, and they could easily be higher. When you run a baseball team, you don’t really care how everyone else values different prospect packages. All you care about is how the guys you trust value them. Whether they are right or wrong is a different discussion entirely.

swheatle
Guest
swheatle
6 years 1 month ago

If AZ thought so highly of Skaggs, why didn’t they just draft him with pick #35 in 2009?

Alex
Guest
Alex
6 years 1 month ago

Perhaps they liked Davidson more and/or they expected Skaggs to be there when they made the 41st pick. Maybe they already liked him a lot and his performance so far in the MWL has them completely sold. I just think its ignorant to focus so much and the consensus views of prospects and disregard that every team values prospects differently. That doesn’t make them right or wrong, they just see different things and have different preferences. I’m not going to act like I know more than they do just because I look things up on the internet.

swheatle
Guest
swheatle
6 years 1 month ago

Hey, I’m all for teams evaluating talent differently, but if you go against convention, you better be right.

Alex
Guest
Alex
6 years 1 month ago

I agree, though I’d add that isn’t really an established convention on either of the two main pieces they added. When you’re talking about guys who are in their first full minor league season, the scouting reports we have access too aren’t especially relevant.

T
Guest
T
6 years 1 month ago

Agreed. Though I think Dave agrees this is a horrendous trade, even if with the apparent low trade value. The thought process is like this:

Dan Haren’s trade value is not as high as everyone thinks.

AZ was offered players from several teams that were not mind blowing.

AZ then valued that talent extremely poorly and picked what probably looked good to them but was ultimately a horrible return.

Haren’s low trade value (if accurate) simply changes the types of names thrown at Arizona, but ultimately Arizona took what might possibly be the absolute worst value offered for his services.

Alex
Guest
Alex
6 years 1 month ago

Or it might be the best. Corbin and Skaggs both profile well statistically and they may very well have strong scouting reports currently. We really have no idea how good either guy is, and its entirely possible the Dbacks are right in their evaluation. We can be cautiously pessimistic, but if Skaggs and/or Corbin develop like Arizona thinks they can, its entirely possible this was the best package they got offered and they end up winning the trade.

T
Guest
T
6 years 1 month ago

You can’t evaluate a trade based on its outcome, Alex. The Diamondbacks VERY likely could have gotten more from any other team. It is simply too unlikely that they weren’t offered anything of greater value. There is no way to prove they got better offers, but based on what we know about both the players they received and the player they were offering, as well as the trade value of the players they received (in the bottom 10 of even the Angel’s farm depth chart) there is simply no way to justify this trade, no matter how it works out in the end.

If you could trade Scott Kazmir for Jesus Montero right now, you would. If you find out that Kazmir ends up turning it around and Montero never makes the major leagues due to injury and a decline in skillset, it was still a good trade, because you traded someone worthless (Kazmir) for someone worthwhile (Montero). The Haren trade is a bad trade. Could it have a good outcome? Perhaps. It could have a great outcome. It’s impossible to know the future. But there is very little chance, if any, that Arizona couldn’t have received better players with less risk and greater ceilings. This is unjustifiable.

Alex
Guest
Alex
6 years 1 month ago

I agree a lot of the time when it comes to outcomes, but this is a little different. We’re talking about two pitchers who are both in their first full professional season. As fans, we have no real feel for how good these guys are. With guys this far away, its all about scouting, and I just think its unfair to says Arizona’s scouts are wrong when we have no point of reference. Maybe its not fair to wait until the final outcome to really grade this trade, but with guys this far away, I think we should probably wait until at least after this season, if not the 2011 season, to see where Corbin and Skaggs rank among prospects. If they continue to develop as Arizona expects, there perceived value will eventually match what the Angels currently think of them.

WY
Guest
WY
6 years 1 month ago

“Haren’s low trade value (if accurate) simply changes the types of names thrown at Arizona, but ultimately Arizona took what might possibly be the absolute worst value offered for his services.”

Without knowing what other teams offered, it is simply impossible to say whether this is true or not.

bc2208
Member
bc2208
6 years 1 month ago

“Perhaps Haren would be better off walking a guy here and there rather than pounding the zone no matter the situation. ”

Any empirical evidence of this? Has anyone taken a stab at the value of this tradeoff?

baty
Guest
baty
6 years 1 month ago

For the number of times he enters a 3 ball count, wouldn’t you have to make a ton of intangible assumptions?

Omar
Guest
Omar
6 years 1 month ago

Dave,

Would you have rather had the Yankee package that was rumored: Joba, Noesi, MacAllister, and Nova than what the Angels gave Zona?

batpig
Guest
batpig
6 years 1 month ago

there is almost no chance that was actually on the table, the Yanks were adamant about not dealing Joba in the deal.

Omar
Guest
Omar
6 years 1 month ago

Well that was really really stupid of them…I’m a Yankee fan but I realize that Joba has very little future with the organization, not that he’s a bad pitcher…just that they have money ear marked for Cliff Lee next year, and with CC, AJ, and I’m assuming Hughes and Lee locked up long term Joba doesn’t fit in there all that well, why not use him to acquire a reliable proven starter?

Alex
Guest
Alex
6 years 1 month ago

Maybe they wouldn’t have money for Haren and Lee

Brian
Guest
Brian
6 years 1 month ago

Something tells me if the Yankees traded for Haren he’d be the next Yankee ace.

batpig
Guest
batpig
6 years 1 month ago

To me, what’s interesting is that the guys mentioned in the article — especially Nolasco, Javy Vazquez and James Shields — are the exact type of guys that the “stathead” fans think are consistently underrated in real life. They are the guys who are overdrafted in Fantasy leagues because they are about to break out (look at that xFIP!! and the K-rate!), or are constantly suggested as “Buy” candidates in Fantasy articles (OMG look at the BABIP! he’s sooo unlucky!)

Is there something stats analysts are missing here? Everybody knows those pitchers, the guys with great stuff (and don’t kid yourself about Haren, despite his fastball velocity he has absolutely filthy stuff), great control…. fabulous peripherals (especially K/9 and K/BB rate) that make stats guys drool about the perennially upcoming breakout, but always seem to end up with a 4.5 ERA at season’s end because of too many blowup starts where they give up 3 HR and 6 ER.

Basically, guys that fool metrics like xFIP into thinking that they are better than they really are.

I realize Haren is not the best example of this because, until the past year, he has actually provided the results to match the periphs. But I definitely see a trend here with a certain class of pitcher…

batpig
Guest
batpig
6 years 1 month ago

basically, somebody hit on it above… can a guy throw TOO many strikes? is there a negative trade-off we are not accounting for with the Javy Vazquez’s of the world, they throw so many strikes that when that occasional low 90’s fasball catches too much plate, it’s getting bombed?

you look at the converse, the “savvy veteran” who is able to outperform fielding independent stats because they “know how to pitch”. Tim Hudson this year is a perfect example… there is no doubt that he has enough mastery of his craft that he can pitch around certain guys when needed, intentionally avoids strikeouts in favor of quick outs, but can dial it up in critical situations when he needs that strikeout. So you end up with BB and K rates that aren’t so pretty on the surface… but he massively outperforms his FIP/xFIP numbers.

Tom Glavine is the most famous historical example, the guy who can just turn it up a notch with runners on base, and ends up with a career ERA much better than his FIP.

Nick Steiner
Guest
6 years 1 month ago

Haren’s career ERA is about .10 points higher than his career xFIP, which is negligible. Furthermore, Haren’s ERA’s the past 3 years have been 3.07, 3.33, and 3.14, while his xFIP’s have been 3.87, 3.21, and 3.08.

So unlike Nolasco and Vazquez, Haren has always had great peripherals and has backed them up with great ERA’s. In fact, this season is the only year he’s really pitched worse than his xFIP, so you unless you think 100 innings of xFIP – ERA is very predictive, your explanation doesn’t really fit.

batpig
Guest
batpig
6 years 1 month ago

obviously, you completely missed the part where I said “I realize Haren is not the best example of this because, until the past year, he has actually provided the results to match the periphs.”

the point was more general, work on the reading comprehension.

Nick Steiner
Guest
6 years 1 month ago

Fair enough, but you were clearly advancing the position that Haren was one of those types of pitchers earlier in the comments.

BillWallace
Guest
BillWallace
6 years 1 month ago

Who the @#% cares if he’s a #1, #1A, #2, or #18 starter.

What matters is that he’s a 5-6 WAR starter on a $13m contract. It’s about $10-20m in surplus value, depending on your assumptions. Did they get that value back? I don’t follow prospects, and don’t know how to value them, so I don’t know, but probably not.

DbackFan
Guest
DbackFan
6 years 1 month ago

i’m confused how is this similar to the joe blanton deal?

Saunders is a former all star who should improve in the NL. At worst, he’s a solid mid rotation SP. Colbin,Skaggs are 19 yr old high upside pitchers, i’ll trust the scouts here. Rodriguez has some weird stats, but once he repeats alevel, he dominates it.

Blanton went for a no power, no defense 2b who can hit above AA. Outman had tj surgery and profiles as a reliever, Spencer is a 25 yrold OF repeating AA.

valuearb
Guest
valuearb
6 years 1 month ago

Don’t you mean Saunders is a guy who fluked into an allstar appearance despite being at best a mid rotation SP?

ConcernedParent
Guest
ConcernedParent
6 years 1 month ago

Yeah, he had a fluke year, but Saunders deserved the All Star spot in 2008 no questions asked.

17-7, 3.41 ERA.

BN
Guest
BN
6 years 1 month ago

I think it’s interesting because maybe it’s not that teams don’t value him, but more so that it was a bit of a perfect storm. Looking at the league right now there just isn’t that many teams who can really take on his 26 million for the next two seasons.

Here’s a quick look at the big market teams with my thoughts on why they wouldn’t be interested.

Yankees/Red Sox, both have deep rotations. Rays deep rotation, plus not much $$. Texas blew their load on Cliff Lee, White Sox/Twins/Tigers doubt they have the available money to make a big deal like that. Braves deep rotation as is, Phils not enough $$, Mets not enough $$ and not even competing at the moment, Cardinals not enough $$, Cubs not competing, Dodgers no $$.

Even though the Phils/Cards etc. have been rumored to be interested in Oswalt I just don’t see most of these teams being able to take on his salary.

Kinda seems like everything just kinda fell into place for the Angels.

Joey B
Guest
6 years 1 month ago

I agree. I think posters are completely under-estimating the money. And the money is actually $29M if you count the buy-out, though obviously the option does have some value. You could also point out that Haren is 0-3 against Philly w a 6.14. When you watch your guys pound someone, you won’t share the same opinion as everyone else.

And if this was Cliff Lee, or Roy Halladay again, I’d say pay the money. But, while I believe that Haren wil return to form, it’s hardly guaranteed. For those citing 1/2 season, it is now one full season including last year’s second half.

The case in point might be the last time the Angels stole an ace, that was sruggling, but with good peripherals, good WAR values, a favorable contract, etc. That was Kazmir. The thinking at the time was that he would return to form, which he did for a while. But now with a cum 5.45 and a 9-11, maybe he isn’t returning to form.

Again, this is not to say he can’t return, but failure has to factored into the equation. You could easily argue a 25% chance at a 3.75, 4.00, 4.25, and 4.50 ERAs. An expected ERA of 4.125. For $29M/2 plus prospects?

Kyle
Guest
Kyle
6 years 1 month ago

Old article, but it’s always fun to bring them back to life. Haren’s ERA and WHIP in the first half since 2006-2009(not counting this season because he’s sucked), all jumped in the second half.

First half 2nd half
06 – 3.52 4.91
07 – 2.30 4.15
08 – 2.72 4.18
09 – 2.01 4.62

Also his first half WHIP for his career is 1.10 while his second half WHIP is 1.31, who cares what FIP shows if a guy who has twiced looked the Cy Young winner fell apart in the second half? It’s not like he’s pitched with any sort of pressure since 2006 where he started two games in the playoffs and only gave the A’s 11 innings. He’s throwing his fastball 42 percent of the time, and instead relying on his cutter, regardless that both pitches have lost velocity over the years. He’s been lucky to have hitters swinging at pitches outside the strike zone or his ERA would be higher than 4.37.

Joycelyn Haugen
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5 years 8 months ago

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