Targeting Dan Haren, the Once and Future Ace
Dan Haren was the stalwart leader of many a championship fantasy pitching rotation for almost a decade. He has won 130 major league games and made three All Star teams and has even been a Cy Young contender in both leagues. He began his career back in the days of high-octane offenses during the steroid era and has thrown 200+ innings 8 times, providing tons of production for his fantasy owners. Haren’s career 4.09 K:BB and 1.87 BB/9 ratios are the best of all active pitchers, well ahead of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Adam Wainwright, King Felix, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw in the most important peripheral stats for pitchers. In fact, Haren ranks near the top in almost all of the career statistical categorys among active pitchers. That is a very impressive feat!
Given Haren’s remarkable track record of success, why is it that he was available for free in so many fantasy leagues last summer? He was actually unowned in 50-75% of Yahoo, CBS and ESPN leagues during June through July of last year. Why would a proven ace pitcher who had been so good for so long suddenly get dropped by so many fantasy owners? Well, after a stellar year in 2011 (16-10, 192 Ks, 3.17 ERA, 1.02 WHIP!) in which he was a Cy Young contender, Haren had a shaky and somewhat disappointing season in 2012. It was not bad enough to dump him, but then came a shockingly rude stretch of poor pitching in 2013. Most of his owners gave up on him way too quickly and allowed some patient, observant bystanders to snap him up with a few well-timed mouse clicks. Let’s take a closer look…
Haren had a down year in 2012 with the Angels, posting a losing 12-13 record and a poor 4.33 ERA. He then proceeded to fall off a cliff in the first half of last year when he crapped out a league-worst 6.15 ERA with only 4 Wins against 11 ugly Losses prior to going on the Disabled List with a bum shoulder on June 22nd. He had allowed a whopping 19 home runs through 15 dismal games and 98 horrible innings. His fantasy owners began dropping him in droves at that point. He had hit rock bottom in terms of performance and health. Most people figured he was done and wrote him off as a loss. But after his stint on the DL, Haren came back in vintage form. After the All Star break Haren posted a 3.52 ERA and stellar 1.02 WHIP, with 70 strikeouts against only 14 walks in 76 innings. All of a sudden he was back to being an ace-quality pitcher again.
Looking a little deeper at his 2013 stats, we can see that even with the terrible first half most of his key peripherals were actually better than his career averages. His 8.01 K/9, his 1.64 BB/9 and his 4.87 K:BB were all very good. The root of Haren’s troubles last year was an unlucky home run rate of 1.49 per 9 innings (1.72 in 1st half), which is much higher than his career rate of 1.09 HR/9. Given that his peripherals were good, it is no surprise that his 4.67 ERA was much higher than his 4.09 FIP, 3.67 xFIP and 3.53 SIERA indicate it should have been. That is a long way of saying that Haren actually pitched much better than it seemed, and his horrific season was actually pretty good.
All this led to Haren being a highly undervalued commodity coming into this season. He is ranked #90 on our The Dynasty Guru consensus list of the top 200 starting pitchers, which I personally think is much too low. I would put him in the top 40! (Our consensus ranks are the best in the business for dynasty leagues, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with the ranking of every single player. Sorry guys!)
Haren is now with the Dodgers, a team that plays in a strong pitchers’ park. The Dodgers’ offense is full of expensive sluggers who are sure to deliver Haren plenty of run support this year, which will lead to plenty of Wins. We can expect him to provide our fantasy teams with 15+ Wins, strong strikeout totals in the range of 175-190 Ks in 210 innings, an ERA around 3.50 and a WHIP around 1.12 or better. Those are nearly fantasy ace stats. He may not be a Cy Young candidate, but he can lead your team to a championship — especially when you consider that he can be obtained for a much lower price than the likes of Max Scherzer, David Price, Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish or Clayton Kershaw.
Haren is off to a strong start already in 2014. He has thrown 12 innings across two games, allowing only 1 run for a 0.75 ERA with 10 strikeouts against only 1 walk. Of course it is only a small sample size, but it confirms that he is fully healthy and ready to resume his perennial stature as a premium fantasy starting pitcher. Now is your last chance to get him before his value shoots up.
It is time for you to target Dan Haren in trades. Does the guy who owns Haren in your league realize how valuable he is? Go out and try to pry him away from his owner. Report back here with your trade deals in the comments below. I want to know how much it costs you to get him in your league!