When the Cubs lost to in the National League Championship Series, it was not just their season that came to an end, but the career of Dan Haren as well. In honor of his retirement, and to look back at his long, successful career, let's review 12 years of BP Annual comments about him, as he developed from centerpiece of the Mark Mulder trade to one of the most underappreciated starters in baseball.
|2015||It's hard to believe Haren, a Pepperdine alumnus from La Puente, California with a free-flowing head of hair, had never pitched for Los Angeles before 2014. He had a reverse roller coaster season in his Dodgers debut: a 2.03 ERA in his first 31 innings, a 5.64 mark over his next 96, then 2.43 in the final 59. His stuff isn't what it once was (91 mph fastball, fall-off-the-table splitter, sharp cutter): His fastball now tops out at 89 (hence the excellent Twitter handle @ithrow88), his splitter is a little flat, he's relying more and more on his cutter and all the pitches are blending together a little bit. You know that animation that shows five pitches with radically different movement and velocity all issuing from one Yu Darvish release point? Haren's the opposite of that.
Still, teams have done and will do worse for $12.5 million. (Haren hit nearly all the performance incentives in his contract and made an additional $2.5 million on top of his $10 million base.) Haren's 2015 option vested, but we're all stuck here waiting to see if he's going to retire after a mid-winter trade to Los Angeles. You already know, because you live in the future. Lucky dog.
|2014||A second consecutive season of a 4+ ERA (and FIP) won't make anyone think Haren is back to his old self, because he’s not. At 33 years old, Haren is his old self, as he failed to crack 180 innings again after surpassing 200 every year from 2005-2011. He can still miss bats (21 percent strikeout rate) and can still pound the zone (4 percent walk rate). But perhaps he’s in the zone too much, with a HR/FB rate well above the league's average that risks undoing an otherwise very good pitcher. Haren was far more effective after returning from a mid-season DL stint, with opponents posting a .636 OPS against him in the second half, and earned himself a potential two-year deal with the Dodgers. If Haren can continue to keep fly balls in the yard at his more representative late-summer rate, he could be a bargain.|
|2013||Angels GM Jerry DiPoto knew he had some tough decisions to make after the 2012 season, but picking up Dan Haren's $15.5 million option didn't figure to be one of them. Then Haren turned in the worst year of his career. The Angels once bought low on a slumping Haren, but this slumping Haren is much more troubling than the 2010 version shopped by the Diamondbacks. His velocity dropped another mile per hour, continuing a steady five-year decline. Lost fastball velocity forces him to his lesser pitches: Haren threw far more splitters and cutters (66 percent combined) than he did in 2010 (41 percent), when he had more heat. Haren's inability to set up his secondary pitches with a strong fastball allows hitters to sit on them. In 2010, Haren got whiffs on nearly 18 percent of his secondary pitches—in 2012, 12 percent. The Nationals signed Haren for one year, $13 million. There’s buying low, and there’s buying late.|
|2012||Haren is yet another pitcher who has reinvented himself with a cutter, though he made the transition seamlessly—no exile to Japan or Taiwan, just year after year of 4-WARP pitching. He's been leaking fastball velocity for four years and struggled to command his once-lethal splitter consistently, yet still led the league in strikeouts-to-walk ratio and posted the lowest FIP (fielding independent pitching) of his career. For that, he can thank the cutter, which he threw half the time in 2011, getting strikes on 71 percent of those throws. Jered Weaver got the Cy Young votes, but Haren's defense-independent stats and career-high innings totals made him the staff's co-ace, or better.|
|2011||As a deadline deal designed to deliver the buyer to October, the Haren trade failed to achieve its intended effect, but to call it a flop would be to overlook the fact that, from the Angels' perspective, the swap was only tangentially about 2010. They locked up a durable top-of-the-rotation talent at a reasonable rate through 2013, and did so without surrendering anything but disposable parts to a trade partner in desperate need of financial relief. Perhaps we’d be flattering ourselves if we speculated that Tony Reagins had scoped Haren’s SIERA before pulling the trigger on the transaction, but the defense-independent metric did predict the pitcher’s post-trade performance much more accurately than his pre-trade ERA. The SoCal native rewarded the Angels’ faith in his peripherals by finishing strong for the first time since 2005, despite logging a career-high 235 frames and running his streak of consecutive seasons with at least 216 innings pitched to six.|
|2010||Haren turned in his fifth straight season of 33-plus starts and 216-plus innings, all with a fine ERA for a desert-dweller and a league-leading strikeout/walk ratio just shy of 6.0. That he has not yet become a household name serves as a testament to the small markets in which he has played, not the magnitude of his talent. On pure stuff, durability, control, command, track record, age and contract status, one would be hard-pressed to find five more valuable pitchers in the entire sport. One off-key note on the subject of his durability: since 2006, when Haren posted a 2.63 ERA down the stretch, Haren has made 34 August and September starts, posting a 5.18 ERA while allowing 263 hits and 33 home runs in 217 1/3 innings. Normally, small-sample breakdowns such as these can be misleading, but in Haren's case there might be something to the idea that his early-season workloads could be better managed to avoid fatigue at the end of the year.|
|2009||Once you adjust for park and the lack of a designated hitter, Dan Haren was almost exactly the same pitcher he was in 2007—merely one of the better pitchers in baseball. Whether or not the deal that brought him to Arizona was a good deal for the Diamondbacks is still an open issue. A critic might note that nearly every prospect they sent to Oakland looked mighty good in the minors, while Haren didn't pitch his team into the postseason and looked downright tired by the time August rolled around. One has to wonder if staying healthy has almost worked against him, as he hasn't missed a turn for four years while tossing almost 900 innings in the process. Color us a bit concerned.|
|2008||Oakland's rebuilding process began in December with the trade of Haren to Arizona for a cornucopia of prospects. Oakland definitely sold high; Haren is generally seen as one of the top starting pitchers in baseball, but he's run out of gas towards the end of each of the last two seasons, and pitching in McAfee Coliseum masked his biggest weakness-giving up big fly balls. As a big-time home-run park, Arizona's Chase Field could prove to be troublesome for Haren, but pitching in the weaker league and not having to worry about those pesky designated hitters should make it a wash in the end.|
|2007||If not for J.J. Hardy, Dan Haren would follow Rich Harden in an alphabetical register of 2006 major leaguers, and that`s probably how most fans think of them: Harden, then Haren. But while Harden has totaled 175 innings over the last two seasons, Haren has established himself as one of the more durable starters in the majors, making 34 starts in both seasons. He`s otherwise consistent, too, with 14 wins in each season and virtually identical numbers down the line. Haren has just one weakness: Home runs. Last season only six American League pitchers gave up more dingers than Haren. If he can solve that problem–or get just a few extra dollops of luck–fans will figure out that Haren comes before Harden in the only way that matters.|
|2005||He's suffered some fits and starts during his call-ups, but this is a pitcher who deserves an extended look in the major league rotation. Haren's a "four-pitch guy" without a truly dominant offering, which means it's possible he might not make the transition to the majors. But, by golly, let him prove it first. You don't post a career 5.37 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the minors by accident. For what it's worth, he looked much better during his 2004 major league look-see than he did in '03. Now that he's in Oakland, Haren will have every opportunity to stick in the rotation on a long-term basis. Don't be shocked if he roughly approximates the quality of Mark Mulder v.2004.|
|2004||A second-rounder in 2001 out of Pepperdine, Haren has an exceptionally strong minor league profile (solid strikeout rate, 2.78 ERA, 5.9 IUBB), and that certainly augurs well for the coming seasons. Although he struggled to find much consistency in St. Louis this past season, his outstanding numbers on the farm earn him the benefit of the doubt. That he spent only 45 innings at the Triple-A level may have hampered his transition to the highest level. Better days lie ahead, starting with a solid sophomore season.|