If pitcher Dan Haren can return to his all-star form of four years ago, the Washington Nationals starting rotation will be solid from top to bottom. The Nationals think that he will. Washington will be asking a lot from a 32 year old who finished 12-13 for the Los Angeles Angels last season, but Haren could benefit from returning to the National League.
Haren began his career 10 years ago in the NL with the St. Louis Cardinals where he was roughed up and went 6-10 in two years. After three years in the American League with the Oakland Athletics, he returned to the senior circuit in 2008 and pitched two and a half seasons for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Haren finished 16-8 in 2008 and 14-10 in 2009 for a combined record of 30-18 and made two of his three all-star appearances. His career record with Arizona was 37-26 with a 3.56 ERA. These are not hall of fame numbers, but solid for a man projected to be the Nationals fifth starter.
If Haren can give Washington 14 to 16 wins in 2013 it would be four to six more wins than last season’s fifth starter Edwin Jackson provided. Jackson finished 10-11 in 2012.
The Nationals won 98 games last year and will need Haren to pitch well in order to come close to matching this total. Washington expects front line starters Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez to give them 15 to 20 wins. Third and fourth starters Jordan Zimmerman and Ross Detwiler will be expected to improve on their 12 and 10 win totals as well. However, there is a good chance that one or more of them could take a step back and that’s where Haren must pick up the slack.
Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo feels Washington is getting the pitcher whom they faced in Arizona and that won 16 games two years ago in Los Angeles. Rizzo thinks that with better defense behind him, Haren will be more effective. Haren has always been known for his ability to throw strikes which means the opposition has to put the ball in play. If he can keep it in the park, the Nationals have put together a defense which will make the plays and ease Haren’s strikeout burden.
Haren was not only brought in to win games and eat up innings. He is expected to be an example to Washington’s young pitching staff as well. The Nationals expect him to show by example the work ethic and demeanor necessary to be an MLB pitcher for a long time. Washington has a lot invested in their young pitchers and would like to get a maximum return on their investment.
The Nationals are expected to challenge for the NL East flag and make a run at the World Series. Their starting pitchers are expected to carry much of the load. If Haren shows the form that he did in his last NL stint, he will help carry some of that weight.