08 May 2010

Is This Haren's Off Year?

I figured I'd ask, after Thursday's complete game victory. It only seems fair. Didnt want to jump the gun, just because he got knocked around by St Louis and 10 hit by the Cubs.

There's an opinion that his dominant, nine strikeout performance against the Astros signals he's back, but he still gave up a couple earned runs to a woeful lineup, so I'm not so sure. Neither is Lance Berkman:

"He was really good early. I didn't think he was great later in the game, but he competes. His repertoire was pretty good."

Not exactly the player code of effusive praise normally generated when you strike out nine and go the distance. It also confirms my less than singular suspicion that he kinda muddled through inferior competition.

He's 4-1, which masks a WHIP that's up from 2008-09, and even after the Houston triumph, his seasonal ERA is still above 4. This is notable,and potentially alarming, only for such a consistently spectacular first half pitcher.

While focus has understandably been on Brandon Webb's status and anticipated contributions from newcomers Jackson, Kennedy, Lopez, there's a tendency to almost forget about Haren. To kind of pencil him in for superlative April thru June hurlery. Of course, that level of excellence is difficult for anyone to sustain. It looks so effortless on TV, but it's physically exhausting work, difficult to replicate.

When people sum up our ballclub, it's great hitting, horrible bullpen and pretty good or "OK" starting pitching. But the starters really havent been good. One reason for the misconception is that expectations were relatively low for Rodrigo Lopez, Kris Benson and even Ian Kennedy. They've all exceeded those, but the fact is, collectively, they're not very good. And while it's easy to blame Ed Jackson for everything, the fact is Dan Haren hasnt pitched like an ace either.

Unlike some pitchers, Jackson for example, when Haren struggles it's especially worrisome. Not merely because the team relies on him to be so good, but because his mechanics and mentality are so solid. If he consistently gets the most of his ability, when he does (comparatively) struggle, one's left questioning why.

Let's hope he can get in his patented groove, against someone besides the Astros. If he cant, this season could head south in a hurry.

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