Why couldn’t Washington Nationals pitcher Dan Haren have pitched like this earlier in the season? There are many reasons as to why the Nationals will miss the playoffs, and Haren is likely near or at the top of that list.
Throughout the season, Haren has consistently been the most shaky starter in the rotation and more than likely in all of baseball. In 28 starts, Haren is a weak 9-13 with a 5.02 ERA and WHIP of 1.27. He has given up 26 home runs and 88 runs. At one point during the season, he was statistically the worst pitcher in all of baseball.
To matter worse for the Nationals, they’re paying this guy $13 million this season. Granted, it’s only a one-year contract so once this season is over, so is the deal, but that’s still enough to make a general manager pull his hair out. Haren has hardly lived up to his contract, and you could argue that he’s even cost the Nationals a chance at the playoffs.
Over an 11-start stretch that spanned across May, June and July, Haren was 0-8 and the Nationals lost all 11 games that he started. While you can argue that a couple losses were due to poor hitting on the Nationals’ part, Haren gave up three runs or more in seven of those 11 games. While you can’t expect much out of your fourth and fifth starters, you have to at least expect him to keep your team in a ball game.
Then a beautiful thing happened — Haren started to win ball games. In August, he won three of his first four starts and won them in convincing fashion. He pitched seven shutout innings against the Milwaukee Brewers, gave up two runs in seven innings against the Philadelphia Phillies, and then gave up one earned run in six innings against the Chicago Cubs.
Things were starting to turn around for Haren and, on a totally related note, the Nationals were starting to make their comeback.
Unfortunately for the Nats, Haren went back to his old ways in his following three starts after his win against the Cubs. He went 0-2 and gave up four runs to the Kansas City Royals, had a seven-run meltdown against the New York Mets and came unraveled against the Miami Marlins and gave up five runs to them.
Fortunately for the Nationals, the good Haren showed up to Wednesday night’s game against the Mets. In six innings of work, he gave up just one hit, a single, and one walk while striking out eight. While it’s nice to see that he is capable of pitching well, it’s a very bittersweet moment for a franchise and fan base that needed that dominance long ago.
What if Haren had pitched even remotely close to that on a nightly basis? What if he hadn’t have been so inconsistent? Would the Nationals be in a better position to make the playoffs? Absolutely. While it’s easy to point to other areas of the team for reasons why they’ll miss the playoffs, one of the biggest reasons stands on the mound in Dan Haren.