Washington Nationals Hope For A Return To Form From Dan Haren In 2013

Doug Pensinger

Pitching for the Los Angeles Angels in 2012, right-hander Dan Haren struggled with back issues which led to the first DL stint of his career, but he recovered in the second-half and so did his numbers, and the Washington Nationals were willing to sign the starter to a 1-year/$13M dollar deal this winter.

According to reports out of Boston, the Red Sox looked at free agent pitcher Dan Haren, but had concerns. Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo (@NickCafardo) wrote on Twitter after the Washington Nationals signed the 32-year-old right-hander to a 1-year/$13M dollar deal that the, "Red Sox didn't like what they saw on Dan Haren's medicals on his hip." The '01 2nd Round pick injured his back in Spring Training and struggled with the issue throughout the first half of the 2012 campaign, going on the DL for the first time in his 10th MLB season, but he told the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore that he'd already taken a physical for a team this winter, and the, "... team was much less concerned about me physically after looking at me." As for the hip, Haren told the WaPost reporter, "... I guess teams were concerned of a hip issue that I’ve dealt with since my time in Oakland. It never has and never will cause me to miss time."

It wasn't just the back or the hip that bothered the Red Sox, however, at least according to ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes, (@GordonEdes), who wrote on Twitter earlier this week that that, "Red Sox liked Haren, but it was simply a matter of money. Weren't going to $13M after a season in which his velocity dipped." There was a demonstrable dip in the veteran starter's velocity. Haren's average fastball velocity was down from a career average of 90.6 mph to 88.5 mph with Fangraphs.com breaking it down further to show a range from a minimum velocity of 86.2 mph to 91.3 mph over the course of the season.

When the LA Angels, for whom Haren was (33-27) with a 3.52 ERA, 96 walks (1.70 BB/9) and 409 Ks (7.23 K/9) in 79 games and 509.0 IP over two and a half years, parted ways with the pitcher, buying him out at a price of $3.5M rather than picking up his option for 2013, Los Angeles Times' beat writer Mark DiGiovanna wrote that the Angels were, "... mindful of his high mileage and decreased velocity," and therefore, "... determined the 32-year-old right-hander was not worth $15.5 million." After a 2011 campaign in which he was (16-10) with a 3.17 ERA, 2.98 FIP, 33 walks (1.25 BB/9) and 192 Ks (7.25 K/9) in 35 games (34 starts) and 238.1 IP, Haren was (12-13) with a 4.33 ERA, 4.24 FIP, 38 walks (1.94 BB/9) and 142 Ks (7.23 K/9) in 30 starts and 176.2 IP in 2012.

In the first half of the 2012 season, the Angels' starter was (6-8) with a 4.86 ERA (which was up over a career 3.66 ERA), 24 walks (2.08 BB/9) and 86 Ks (7.47 K/9) in 17 starts and 103.2 IP in which opponents had a .297/.333/.484 line against the right-hander. When Haren returned from a DL stint, the pitcher had a 3.58 ERA with 14 walks (1.72 BB/9) and 56 Ks (6.90 K/9) over his last 13 starts and 73.0 IP, holding opposing hitters to a .243/.282/.432 line. Haren's BABIP-against was up from .272 in 2011 to .302 in 2012, but his career average is a .291 BABIP.

Haren's HR/FB% was up from 7.5% in 2011 to 12.8% (from a career 10.5% HR/FB%). His LD% (Line Drive %) was up from 19.5% in 2011 and 19.9% in his career to 20.7%. His GB% (Ground Ball%) was down from 42.5% in '11 and 43.2% in his career to 39.6% and his FB% (Fly Ball%) was up from 37.9% in 2011 to 39.6% over a career 36.9% FB%. His LD% and FB% were both up and more of the fly balls went out. He walked more hitters and gave up more home runs. Haren's manager in LA, Mike Scioscia told the Los Angeles Times' Mark DiGiovanna he expected a return to form from Haren in 2013. "A lot of people might feel he took a step back this year," Scioscia said, "but this guy competes so well that I think he’s a guy who will rebound and be strong next year."

"Although a scout might evaluate him in the stands and see that his stuff isn’t quite as crisp as it was three or four years ago," the Angels' skipper told the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore after Haren signed with Washington, "it’s still good." The Nationals' 1-year/$13M dollar deal with Haren hasn't been officially announced, pending a physical which was scheduled to take place on Thursday.

After the deal with Washington was announced, the LA Times' Mr. DiGiovanna (@MikeDiGiovanna) wrote on Twitter that he'd heard the Angels, "... offer to Dan Haren was for two years, heavy in incentives, much lower base salary than what Nationals offered," making it an easy decision for the pitcher. Concerned as the Red Sox reportedly were, ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes (@GordonEdes) wrote on Twitter that Boston, "... made [a] 'competitive' offer for Haren." Apparently neither team was too concerned about Haren's health or his struggles in 2012.

No word out of D.C. as of this afternoon as to the results of Haren's physical.

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