It may have been Jered Weaver getting all of the Cy Young attention in 2011, but a case could be made that Dan Haren was actually better than Weaver last season. Can Haren repeat the same kind of success in 2012 and if so, will it actually get noticed this time?
2011 Stats: 16-10, 238.1 IP, 3.17 ERA, 211 H, 33 BB, 20 HR, 192 K
2012 ZiPS Projections: 14-9, 215.2 IP, 3.59 ERA, 209 H, 38 BB, 24 HR, 177 K
2012 Bill James Projections: 16-10, 234.0 IP, 3.27 ERA, 221 H, 39 BB, 26 HR, 202 K
2012 CAIRO Projections: 15-10, 224.1 IP, 3.46 ERA, 217 H, 42 BB, 22 HR, 185 K
2012 PECOTA Projections: 15-13, 224.0 IP, 3.05 ERA, 209 H, 40 BB, 23 HR, 194 K
2012 MWaH Projections*: 17-9, 224.0 IP, 3.33 ERA, 208 H, 34 BB, 24 HR, 188 K
*The MWaH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research
2011 in Review: No pitcher had a more quiet great season in the majors than Dan Haren did in 2011. It may have been Jered Weaver getting all the attention, but by the end of the year, Haren actually had better numbers than his rotation mate. Yes, Weaver had the shiny 2.41 ERA while Haren came in at an impressive, but lesser, 3.17 ERA, but when you look at the more advanced metrics that account for luck, ballpark and defense (specifically FIP, xFIP and SIERA) Haren was better than Weaver in ALL of them. He even had a better fWAR (6.4 to Weaver’s 5.6), although Weaver crushed him in rWAR, so I guess that stat is more a matter of preference. The point is that if you thought Weaver was awesome in 2011 then you by default must also acknowledge the greatness of Haren as well.
How did Danny Boy do it? It looks like a certain amount of it was luck as he allowed the fewest home runs per nine innings (0.76 HR/9) of his career and did it while also posting his worst K/9 rate (7.25) since 2006. In other words, he somehow allowed more contact and allowed even fewer homers. This was actually a stark contrast from his 2010 season, which was a down year for him, but it was also a year in which he allowed an abnormal number of home runs.
So what was the big difference? If you believe in Pitch F/X, it seems the big variable that changed from one season to the next was Haren relying heavily on his cutter in 2011. Dan threw a cut fastball 47% of the time last season, which is a huge jump from the 27% he threw it in 2010. That actually makes a lot of sense since a cutter is less of a swing-and-miss pitch and more of a swing-and-get-jammed pitch, thus explaining the reduced BABIP, K-rate and HR-rate (or at least partially, luck still has to factor in there somewhere).
Three Lingering Questions for 2012:
- Will Dan’s heavy workloads ever catch up to him? Haren threw a career-high 238.1 innings last season, which is the second consecutive 235+ inning season for him. That makes Haren seven-for-seven in his career on throwing at least 217 innings. That is a lot of innings. Haren will be 31 this season, so it is probably a bit soon for the workload to start catching up to him, but you never know.
- Can Haren emerge as the rotation’s alpha dog? As mentioned above, Haren was probably better than Weaver statistically in 2011, but he was still always the Robin to Jered’s Batman. But could that change if Haren bests Weaver on the stat sheet again? He doesn’t seem to have the same fiery personality that Weaver has, so the Angels might be better off with Haren deferring to Jered no matter who posts better numbers, but could that cause some sort competition between the two, especially when Haren starts thinking about how much money he wants to earn on his next contract?
- Will the Angels pick up his $15.5 million option for 2013? This is sort of a two-part question because first Haren has to be good and healthy again in 2012 for the Angels to want to pick up his option, but there is also the question of whether he and the Angels will instead work out a long-term contract extension in lieu of the team option. Haren loves Southern California, so it is a real possibility that he will seek a long-term deal that ensures he retires as an Angel.
What to Expect in 2012: I’m trying really hard to think of some compelling angle on Haren’s 2012 season, but the thing is that he is so annoyingly consistently good that there really isn’t any creative way for me to say that Haren is almost certainly going to have pretty much the same kind of season he had last season and the five seasons before that. If he stays healthy, and we have little reason to think that he won’t, he’ll be an All-Star caliber pitcher and the Angels will pick up his option or sign him to an extension. That’s boring. That’s unimaginative. That’s also probably what is going to happen.