As the playoffs and award season gets underway, we want to take a gander at some players who had outstanding seasons in 2009 but whose teams ended up just shy of making the postseason and who will (most likely) not pick up any fancy trophies. Quite a consolation prize: a round of golf and a write-up on a low circulation sports blog.
Up next, Danny Haren, as written by Patrick Sullivan.
Since the start of the 2005 campaign, a number of starting pitchers have exhibited dominance over varying periods of time. Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum come to mind over the last couple of seasons. Mark Buehrle threw a Perfect Game this year! Did you know Brad Radke had a 5.09 K/BB ratio in 2005? Or that Pedro Martinez was freaking out-of-his-mind awesome for 217 strong innings as a Met that same 2005 season? Remember Jake Peavy and Aaron Harang and Curt Schilling and Brandon Webb and James Shields? How great have Cole Hamels and Jon Lester been over the last few years? Check out Ervin Santana's 2008 numbers if you have a moment.
You get the picture. Pitchers emerge and fade, the better ones vacillating season-to-season in quality anywhere from above average to Cy Young Award candidate; and that's if they're fortunate enough to stay healthy. The best? I mean the very, very best? They get it done every season. Roy Halladay leads this list given Johan Santana's recent injury troubles, although Santana isn't far behind. Roy Oswalt's on it. So is C.C. John Lackey and Felix Hernandez may have a claim.
You know who else is on it? Dan Haren. Dan Haren is one of the very best pitchers in the world, and his performance record since becoming a full-time starting pitcher in 2005 for the Oakland Athletics is astoundingly magnificent, thanks in equal parts to his dominance, his improvement trajectory, his durability and his consistency. Since 2005, only Sabathia has thrown more innings. Of starters with 1,000 innings pitched, only Santana and Halladay have allowed fewer baserunners. Only Santana, Javier Vazquez and Sabathia have struck out more batters. Oh what the heck? Let's just list it out. Since 2005, here are Haren's numbers and where they rank among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings:
IP: 1,108 (2)
ERA+: 127 (7)
Wins: 73 (6)
Strikeouts: 960 (4)
K/9: 7.80 (16)
K/BB: 4.16 (3)
Baserunners: 1,306 (3)
And what about over the last 2 seasons?
IP: 445 (5)
ERA+: 140 (9)
Wins: 30 (8)
Strikeouts: 429 (5)
K/9: 8.67 (6)
K/BB: 5.50 (2)
Baserunners: 484 (2)
Justin Verlander was better than Haren in 2009. Cliff Lee was better in 2008, Erik Bedard better in 2007, Jeremy Bonderman in 2006 and Esteban Loaiza in 2005. Another handful of pitchers will outpitch Haren next year too, and the year after that. But in the aggregate Haren's been as solid as all but two or three pitchers over the last five seasons, and given his make-up as a power pitching control freak with no injury history, he's a good bet to stay on that shortlist of the very best pitchers in baseball for the next five campaigns or so.
Patrick Sullivan regularly contributes to Baseball Analysts. A Bostonian, he'd be cool with the Red Sox acquiring Dan Haren.