Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Dan Haren: Cy Young favorite?
By Michael Bonzagni
After a 2-0 start in which he allowed just two runs in 15⅔ innings in three previous appearances, Dan Haren dominated again Tuesday. Haren tossed the season's first complete-game one-hitter snapping the Cleveland Indians' eight-game win streak. Haren walked two and struck out eight for the 12th complete game and third shutout of his career.
His 125-pitch effort came three days after he threw one inning in relief to earn a win against the Toronto Blue Jays. The last pitcher to throw a complete-game one-hitter on two days rest was the Pirates' Paul Wagner in 1995.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Haren is the first pitcher since Don Sutton in 1969 and just the fifth since 1920 to throw a one-hit shutout against a team that was on a win streak of eight or more games. Sutton accomplished the feat against the San Francisco Giants on May 1, 1969 while with the Dodgers.
Haren is in the process of rebounding from a nightmare 2010 season, which was his worst statistical year since 2006 in which he posted a career high in hits allowed (245) and matched a career high in home runs (31) and earned runs allowed (102).
But if we dig a little deeper with a sabermetric trowel, we will find that Haren suffered through some bad luck in 2010 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is a formula that determines what a pitcher’s ERA would look like based on factors he can control, namely walks, strikeouts and home runs. Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) replaces the home runs a particular pitcher has given up with the league average of home runs per flyball (HR/FB), since HR/FB rate of many pitchers proves to be pretty erratic throughout their careers.
Haren’s ERA was 4.60 as a member of the Diamondbacks last year. His xFIP during that time was 3.19, a difference of 1.41 runs.
The homer-friendly Chase Field did not help out Haren’s ERA. ESPN’s MLB Park Factors, a handy stat for determining the effects a ballpark has on home runs and runs scored, has ranked Chase Field as a homer-friendly ballpark nine of the last 10 years. Haren allowed 23 home runs during his stint with Arizona, 13 of which were hit at Chase. His HR/9 was 1.47, the highest of his career, and his HR/FB percent was 13.9 when he called Chase his home.
After he was traded to the Angels however, his home run rate decreased drastically to 0.77 HR/9 and he boasted a HR/FB percent of 6.5. He surrendered only eight home runs in 94 innings in an Angels uniform. Park Factors ranked Angels Stadium 23rd in HR allowed last year, 11 spots better than Chase Field. The change in scenery alone has so far helped Haren improve his numbers.