Does God hate Dan Haren?

Following today's set of games, Dan Haren (108 IP on the season) remains the only pitcher with a WHIP at or below 1.000 (his currently sits a robust .81). To put Dan Haren's control and dominance in perspective, his WHIP currently matches that of Greg Maddux's during his electric 1995 cy young campaign (1.63 ERA, .81 WHIP in 209.2 IP). Not even the almighty Pedro has logged a season with a WHIP below 0.92 in which he tossed 10 or more innings.

Yet, in a perfect manner that illustrates the uselessness that is the Wins-Loss record, Dan Haren is now 6-5 on the season. Today's loss comes with a 7.0 IP, 8 K, 1 BB, 4 H, 2 ER line. Only the Diamondbacks' offense could consistently fail to win behind a pitcher who has surrendered a mere 2.25 runs per nine through 108 IP.

Despite a few "scary" signs of impending regression (86.0 LOB%, .239 BABIP), the super majority of Dan Haren's successes this season have been entirely earned and not the by-product of luck. The 8.67 K/9, 1.16 BB/9 (second best in baseball), 7.43 K/BB (best in baseball) and 69.8% first pitch strikes (tied for best in baseball, the league average is 58%) have earned Haren a 2.25 ERA against a still stellar 2.98 FIP (seventh best in baseball). Even Haren's xFIP, which normalizes home runs rates to neutralize luck (on average, about 11% of all FBs are HRs), stands at a remarkable 3.05.

Some, such as fangraphs, may claim the LOB% and BABIP call for some moderate regression (from outstanding pitcher to very good pitcher), but it should be noted that guys who have great control rates strand more runners and post lower BABIPs than the league average (.292 this year)*. I'm not saying that Haren will continue to rock the world with a 2.25 ERA the rest of the season, but a 3.00 ERA from here forward is quite reasonable, if not almost entirely achievable. Dan Haren's control and command this season have only been bested by a handful of players in the history of the game - Curt Schilling's 2002 season, Greg Maddux's 1995 season and Pedro Martinez's 1999 and 2000 seasons all come to mind (all of them, minus Schilling, who was second in voting behind teammate Randy Johnson in 2002, won the Cy Young those seasons). If Haren keeps these numbers up, even with a slight regression towards the 3.00 ERA line, there is no one in the world -- not even Matthew Berry -- who could deny that Dan Haren is the NL's (if not baseball's) best pitcher -- and yes, I do realize Tim Lincecum pitches in the NL.

*-In the world of baseball, there are two general schools of thought regarding a pitcher's impact on BABIP. The first, in line with Voros McCracken's original assertion, is that pitchers have absolutely no control over BABIP. The second school of thought, which is in line with Voros' later, evolved and softer stance on the issue, states that pitchers have very little control over BABIP (especially compared to K and BB rates), but that pitchers with higher K rates, better control (K/BB) and good defenses behind them tend to post lower BABIPs than the league average.


The 'Bright' One said...

Lincecum > Haren

His delivery was developed by NASA

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

Haren has twice the control of Tim Lincecum. If he too played AT&T park, his HR/9 numbers would half and his FIP would be 2.00 as well