Who is really the best baseball team in the majors? I honestly don't know but I try to figure that out by using basic and advanced statistics. I live for talking about baseball, it's my biggest drive in my life and I will jump on the opportunity to talk baseball with anyone, even with people who I don't really like. For me, Baseball is a piece of art that sits in my mind all day, ready to be painted on at any point of the day.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Conversation: The underrated Dan Haren

By Mike Moritz

Yes, I know, I should probably be writing about how Albert Pujols did not re-sign with the Cardinals or maybe about how Jose Bautista just signed his big extension or Rickie Weeks's new contract but I'll get to all this a little later. I am also going to take a break from the 30 Teams and right about one of my favorite players:

Dan Haren Dan Haren #24 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim throws a pitch against the Cleveland Indians on September 6, 2010 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.Dan Haren, in my opinion, is an ace. Major League Baseball teams seem to not care for him. In the mid season trade that got Haren out of Arizona and up the coast to the Angels, the Diamondbacks seemed to think that Haren and Joe Blanton are the same caliber pitcher. No, that is not true and I will not believe that.

The Angels gave up Joe Saunders, Patrick Corbin, Rafael Rodriguez and Tyler Skaggs for Haren and it seems like the Angels easily got the better end of the deal, at least today (Tyler Skaggs has a good future ahead of him). This looked to be a trade to counter for the Rangers getting Cliff Lee in a mid-season deal that took place just two weeks before and as good as Haren is, the Halos still were unable to make a push into the playoffs.

MLB teams seem to not like Haren for the amount of home runs he gives up. Haren has a 1.05 HR/9 rate in his career and last year was the 2nd worst of them all in his career: 1.19 HR/9.

But let's take a look at all the other great things about Haren. He has good control of his pitches, has good movement, strikes out a lot hitters consistanly, has a good FIP and xFIP from year to year and finally, he is as durable as a pitcher can be. *Knock on wood*

He had a bad first half but turned it in the second half of the season yet his xFIP for the whole season was 3.67, compared to his 3.64 career xFIP. So he just got a little un-lucky. His opponent BABIP was also a bit high: .311. He struck out 8.27 per 9 innings and walk 2.07 per 9 and his O-Swing% was up to 34.7%. Hard to believe that he gave up 31 homers last year.

And that is my big problem with Haren and it is the same with teams in the majors. He gives up so many home runs. Even when he played in for the Athletics, in the spacious Oakland Coliseum, he still gave up a lot of homers.

Looking at his heat maps from Fangraphs, it looks like he throws a lot of curve balls to lefty hitters. But he does not break them out the zone and get them to chase them, as he should. It looks like he leaves his curves in the middle of the zone. A slow, 77-80 mph, breaking curve left in the middle of zone? You're asking for a home run. Sure enough, he does give up many more home runs to lefties. Out of 524 right handed hitters faced in 2010, Haren gave up 13 home runs. In 470 lefty hitters faced, he gave up 18 homers. And it's not like he gets deep into hitters counts and decides he rather try to get them out then walk them, that's not true either; on 0-1 and 1-0 counts, he gave up a total of 24 homers (out of his 31total) in 2010. In fact, when Haren got deep into counts (2-2 or 3-2), he only gave up a total of 11 doubles and 5 homers.

Take a look at his heat maps for curve balls against lefty hitters:

Notice how the curves do not dive down and in towards the lefty hitters.

Here's my theory: pitchers are going to give up home runs. It is going to happen. You can not deny it. What you can do as a pitcher is hold the home runs down to a low number of them by changing speeds and putting breaking balls out of the zone to get hitters to chase (I won't say "location" is a huge factor because hitters can still hit many homers on good-located pitches).

For Haren, he needs to keep the homer total low but, again, it can not be zero. But it looks like he can keep lefties in the park more by keeping his breaking balls out of the zone. More specifically, his curve ball. If he starts to let his curve ball dive down and in towards the lefties, then he could probably shave off maybe 10 homers and posibly even more strike outs. That is a good amount considering how many homers he already gives up.

This is my personal projection for Danny Haren: 3.00 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 200+ innings, 190+ strike outs.

(Stats in courtesy of: fangraphs.com)

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