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Entries in Washington Nationals (19)


Decline, Illustrated. Featuring: Dan Haren

Once upon a time, Dan Haren was what, in baseball, could only be referred to as a horse: 33-34 starts, 200+ innings, and each one, valuable. He flew a tick under the radar pitching for no-name teams in Oakland and Arizona, but when a pitcher is good, people will notice. 

Dan Haren is also the kind of pitcher that you could call, "unlucky." In his 11 years as a major league starter, he's never won more than 16 games. He's also had six seasons where he lost 10 or more games, with career highs of 13 in 2006 and 2012. And considering his 4-8 record this year, chances are that he will set a new career high (low?) by the end of the 2013 season.

But pitchers' won-loss records are silly. They are hardly the proper barometer for evaluating a pitcher's current performance. Nor is it right to use pitching wins and losses as a predictive tool for future performance.

So then, what should you use for predicting future performace.

You can use xFIP, which might be the best predictive pitching stat available on the interwebs.

xFIP stands for Expected Fielding Independent Pitching. It's a stat that holds pitchers accountable for the things that they can control (walks, hit batsmen, strikeouts and home runs). It assumes league average fielding and league average HR/FB rates. It is one of the best stats available for predicting a pitcher's future performance. For a more detailed definition of xFIP, go here.

Dan Haren's current xFIP for 2013 is 4.09. Which is far less unsightly than the atrocious 5.70 ERA he is currently carrying around on his back. But a 4.09 xFIP would be a career high for Haren.

But stats like xFIP are still foreign to a majority of the baseball loving population.

So how about this?

How hard is Dan Haren being hit this year compared to, oh, let's use 2011 and 2008?

In 2008, Haren was an All-Star who finshed the season with an ERA of 3.33 and an xFIP of 3.16. He also had a WAR of 6.1. In other words, Dan Haren was fantastic in 2008.

In 2011, Haren had the second lowest WHIP of his career at 1.024, an ERA of 3.17 and an xFIP of 3.29. He also set a career high for single season WAR with 6.2. In other words, Dan Haren was also fantastic in 2011.

But let's illustrate this better with pictures, shall we.

Dan Haren 2008 SLG% Against.

 Dan Haren 2011 SLG% Against

Dan Haren 2013 SLG% Against

Look at how much redder this season's map is.

The slowing of Haren's fastball 

  • In 2008, Haren's fastball topped out at 96.3 MPH, and averaged out at 91.1.
  • In 2013, Haren's fastball has topped out at 92.3 while generally sitting at 89.2. 

Those two to three MPH of difference can be huge, especially when a pitcher is not locating his pitches as well as he did five years prior. 

Some pitchers, as they've aged, have learned to adjust to their diminishing velocity.

Last year, I thought that Haren was entering into the decline phase of his career, but held out hope that he would fade slowly in the same way that Kevin Milwood faded.

This year, I know that Dan Haren is declining. But it doesn't look like the Milwood comp is going to hold water. It looks like Haren's career is going the way of another comp of his according to Baseball-Reference, Doug Drabek. Both of whom (Drabek and Haren) were dependable and outstanding pitchers through their age-30 seasons. They also both fell of a steep cliff afterwards.

Drabek held on until he was 35. As for the 32-year old Haren, with the way that teams are starting to pinch every penny that they can, I fear he won't make it past next season.  


Strasburg to start opening day plus more

"Not that there was any uncertainty about it, but Davey Johnson made it official nonetheless this morning: Stephen Strasburg will start Opening Day for the Nationals.

"I guess you want me to say it," the 70-year-old manager said. "He's going to be my Opening Day starter. You drug it out of me."

Johnson's selection of Strasburg is hardly a surprise. The right-hander got the Opening Day nod last season in Chicago, then went 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA and 197 strikeouts before his much-debated shutdown in early September after 159 1/3 innings."


CJ Wilson effective in off-day assignment

"For most major league veterans, spring training is a pretty low-key affair. All you have to do is get a little work in, break a sweat occasionally, and fine-tune a few things for the regular season.

But even by those standards Tuesday was a relaxing day for left-hander C.J. Wilson, who pitched four innings against a team made up primarily of minor leaguers on what was, for the rest of the Angels, a day off.

"We have to make it like a real game even though we're just facing our own guys," Wilson said. "So I'm trying to go in and kind of get rah-rah and have fun. 'Let's go! Let's beat these Angels!'"


Carl Crawford faces live major league pitching

"Carl Crawford faced relievers Kenley Jansen andJ.P. Howell on Tuesday, marking the first time he took live batting practice against major league pitchers since he was shut down two weeks ago.

“A step in the right direction,” said Crawford, who resumed working out last week.

Crawford, who is recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery, was encouraged by how he felt.

“Your timing at this point is never going to be the way you want it, but it wasn’t as far off as I would expect it to be, either,” he said."


Carlos Gomez agrees to deal with Brewers

"Outfielder Carlos Gomez and the Milwaukee Brewers have agreed to a $28.3 million, four-year contract.

The 27-year-old outfielder would have been eligible for free agency after this season. He had agreed to a $4.3 million, one-year deal in January, and the new contract includes salaries of $7 million in 2014, $8 million in 2015 and $9 million in 2016."


Hochevar transitioned to bullpen

"Right-hander Luke Hochevar, eternally inconsistent as a starter, is shifting, at least temporarily, to the Royals’ bullpen.

Manager Ned Yost announced the move Wednesday morning prior to a game against Seattle at Surprise Stadium.

“I think it makes us a better team,” Yost said. “I think it makes us a stronger team. It gives us a better chance to win every day. With three weeks left, I want to get him acclimated to that role.”


Casey Kelly might need "Tommy John" surgery

"The already cloudy picture regarding Padres starting pitching turned darker Wednesday afternoon when it Padres manager Bud Black confirmed that right-hander Casey Kelly has had tests on his right elbow and could be a candidate for elbow reconstruction surgery.

“Anything is possible,” the Padres manager said of the possibility that Kelly would be the Padres pitcher to have “Tommy John” surgery in the last 10 months.

“It is that part of the elbow that we’re concerned about,” Black continued. “The doctors are concerned about what the tests looked like. There’s going to be a lot of discussion between Kelly and his family. They’ll probably want a second opinion.”


Dodgers hoping plasma injection helps Greinke

"Zack Greinke has a sore elbow and Chad Billingsley doesn't, neither of which the Dodgers really expected this spring.

What they have in common is that Billingsley's partially torn elbow ligament responded last year to injections of platelet-rich plasma, and now the Dodgers are waiting to see if a similar injection, along with anti-inflammatory medication like cortisone, will have the same beneficial result with Greinke.

The Dodgers have been using the treatment since 2008, when reliever Takashi Saito responded well to the procedure as has Billingsley, avoiding Tommy John surgery."


Brennan Boesch released

"The Detroit Tigers have released outfielder Brennan Boesch, the club announced Wednesday morning.

The Tigers should have nontendered the 27-year-old outfielder last December, but they thought they could trade him. As it turned out, they weren't getting any bites, so cutting bait now was the right move. Boesch's contract for the 2013 season was worth $2.3 million. By cutting him now, the Tigers only owe him a sixth ($383,333) of that.

Also note that the Tigers have Austin JacksonTorii HunterAndy DirksQuintin Berry andAvisail Garcia as outfield options, so there's no need for Boesch.

Boesch finished fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2010 and then hit .283/.341/.458 with 16 homers in just 115 games in 2011, but last season was a different matter. Boesch regressed to .240/.286/.372 with 12 homers in 503 plate appearances. He struck out 104 times while walking just 26. For those into the advanced metrics, Boesch's WAR was 2.3 in 2011 and negative-1.4 last season."




Four from the Bill Chuck Files...

Best/Worst: Blue Jays and Nationals

Here are the best and the worst seasons of the two teams whose franchises are rooted in O Canada (and may be meeting in the 2013 World Series).


The (Season-) Long Goodbye starring Mariano Rivera

This season-long goodbye is not a Raymond Chandler Philip Marlowe novel, it’s the Mariano Rivera Goodbye Tour.

For those fans away from New York, here are the dates in which you can get to say a final farewell to one of baseball’s immortals.

From the Sunday Funnies: Big Nate

The very talented Lincoln Peirce, the cartoonist behind Big Nate found in over 300 papers and in print for 22+ years, shared his view on his very favorite team yesterday.

Nine to Know: 2012 Grand Slams

David Wright‘s grand slam on Saturday enabled Team USA to defeat Italy, 6-2.

So far, the most interesting aspect of the WBC was the basebrawl between Mexico and Canada over apparently who is really the United States’ BFF.

Wright’s grand slam was the first for Team USA since Jason Varitek on March 8, 2006, against Canada which got me thinking about grand slams in games that count/matter/of interest.