It’s about time.
Though the general response to the news that the Washington Nationals have decided to move struggling starter Dan Haren to the DL should have been that of concern for the health of the veteran, it’s more likely that most Nats fans are left with just one question:
How did it take so long?
The DL stint for Haren, as one could reasonably guess, has as much (if not more) to do with the performances that he’s dished out on the mound as health of his “sore shoulder”, with the pitcher himself even telling Tom Schad of MLB.com that it’s “nothing really major at all”.
What is major, on the other hand, is the damage he’s done to the Nationals.
One look at his below-replacement -0.1 fWAR through 82 innings should tell you all you need to know, but should you want to explore this horror show further, you’ll find that despite a 7.35 K/9 being paired with a usually excellent 1.43 BB/9, Haren owns an unsightly 6.15/1.44 ERA/WHIP with a .302 BAA.
Oh, I suppose I should mention that it’s a league-worst 6.15 ERA among all qualifying starters.
The culprit of his struggles is undoubtedly his also league worst home run rate, as he’s giving up long balls at an incredible 2.09 HR/9 rate that just about makes him the best human souvenir machine in the bigs. If going to the NL was supposed to help this issue, it certainly hasn’t happened, as the 32-year-old has allowed at least one home run in 11 of his 15 starts.
The ironic thing about all this? His velocity, which was though to be affected by his ailing back last season, is actually back up to a 89.2 mph average compared to 88.5 in his “down year”. That’s not so far from the 89.8 mph average he flashed in 2011 … when he was a 6.2 fWAR ace for the Los Angeles Angels.
Now? It’s unclear whether Haren will even be a starting pitcher at all even after this little team-initiated hiatus.
Considering that Ross Ohlendorf has allowed all of two runs in his first two starts for the Nats, there’s really not a whole lot of good reasons to keep throwing Haren out there. Sure, it’s not as though the newcomer isn’t a minefield of his own either (7.77/1.77 ERA/WHIP in 48.2 IP with the San Diego Padres last season), but there’s one thing about risking rock-bottom performance and another to know you’re going to get it.
And right now, what the Nationals should know that Dan Haren should not be starting every fifth day.
Whether the remainder of his $13 million salary will have anything to say about that, on the other hand …