Our player preview series rolls on with one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises of the 201 Angel season, Mr. Dan "Don't Call Me Danny" Haren. The Angels like to say their mid-season trade last year for Haren was really their big free agent splash in advance, but can Haren live up his ace billing or will he once again struggle to find consistency?
2010 Stats: 235 IP, 12-12, 3.91 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 216 K (combined for his time with Arizona and Angels)
2011 ZiPS Projections: 224.1 IP, 15-9, 3.57 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 213 K
2011 Bill James Projections: 238 IP, 15-12, 3.52 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 216 K
2011 Marcel Projections: 200 IP, 12-10, 3.76 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 209 K
2011 MWaH Projections*: 225 IP, 15-10, 3.40 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 190 K
*The MWaH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research
2010 in Review: For as much crap as Tony Reagins has taken this winter, everyone seems to be forgetting how much praise he was getting for pulling off the Haren Heist before last year's trade deadline. Reagins managed to pry Haren, a player he had been after for years, loose from Diamondbacks for almost nothing (no offense to Joe Saunders) by taking advantage of an inept front office and a rough start to Haren's 2010 season. That bad start may have caused some to believe that Haren was finally going to stop overachieving and pitch down to a level more commensurate of a pitcher with his velocity and home run rate, but Dan returned to his native SoCal and was absolutely dominant for the Angels.
Three Lingering Questions for 2011:
- Why did Haren have such disparate performances before and after his trade? In Arizona, Haren had 4.60 ERA, in Los Angeles, his ERA was a sparkling 2.87. That's quite a split, no matter how you look at it, and definitely one that is cause for concern just because it means Haren is capable of being as bad as he was for the D'Backs. Was it really just bad luck in Arizona? After all, his home run rate and BABIP during that part of the season were well above his career averages. And was it really just good luck with the Angels? His home run rate and BABIP were both below his career average, as was his strikeout rate. Or is there more cause for concern? Haren is now 30 years old and has pitched six straight seasons of 216 or more innings, so it is a possibility that he is starting to breakdown.
- Will the Angels offense actually be able to give Haren any run support this year? Haren must really be wondering if his new teammates like him or not. In 14 starts for the Halos, the Angel lineup scored more than four runs just twice, which certainly explains how he only went 5-4 despite boasting a 2.87 ERA as an Angel. I don't believe that run support on a pitcher-by-pitcher basis for a team is anything more than sheer chance, but it the Angels may want to try a little extra hard whenever Haren is on the mound just in case.
- Could Haren overtake Weaver for the title of staff ace? Every Angel fan couldn't be prouder of Jered Weaver for stepping up his game and becoming a bona fide ace and Cy Young contender last season, but there is a good chance that his tenure as undisputed staff ace might come to a swift end. Haren isn't too far removed from Cy Young consideration himself (he finished fifth in 2009 NL Cy Young voting) and I can't help but think he isn't feeling slightly rejuvenated now that he is free from the terrible Diamondbacks. If Weaver regresses even a little bit this coming season, Haren will be right there to challenge him for rotation alpha dog.
What to Expect in 2011: Haren put up some pretty great numbers during his years on the Senior Circuit, but he is going to have a hard time replicating them back in the American League, even if he clearly has plenty of previous experience in the AL West. That being said, Haren is right in the prime of his career and looks to have landed in the perfect situation for him, personally. He leaves the moderately hitter-friendly Chase Field and is now setting up shop in pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium, a pretty significant move for a guy who has always been a bit homer-prone. An intangible factor at play here though is that Dan really thrived getting to pitch back in the area where he grew up. That doesn't always work out for guys, but it was obvious in his first few appearances at Angel Stadium that Haren was feeding off the energy of his hometown fans. The thing about Haren is that there really isn't much to say about him. He is just one of those pitchers who always seems to be able to come out year after year, pitch a ton of innings and do it very effectively. Until we see something a little more alarming than two bad months playing for a bad team, I don't see any reason to think that Haren will do anything other than be the same pitcher he has been for the last several seasons.