The Dodger’s Division Hopes May Rest Upon Dan Haren


Didn’t see this one coming did you? I bet you didn’t. How could the prognosticators have missed this? it all comes down to Danny boy. That’s right, I’m going to go out on a limb here. The Dodger’s division title hopes may ride on the arm of Dan Haren. Let me explain before you think I’m crazy. No I haven’t lost my mind either.

The Dodgers have a two game lead over the Giants in the NL West with ten games left to play. The Dodgers will play a four game series at Wrigley Field in Chicago against the Cubs from Thursday night through Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile the Giants will be playing a series in San Diego over the weekend.

The Dodgers have a vital three game series against the Giants looming at Dodger Stadium from September 22-24. Those will be the final three games against the Giants this season. Those games will probably decide the NL West.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

So the Dodgers rearranged their rotation so that their big three of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu would line up to pitch those remaining games against the Giants. Seems full proof right? Except for one problem. Hyun-jin Ryu hurt his left shoulder, and the Dodgers don’t have anyone good to replace him with.

Last Friday night Ryu pitched just one inning against the Giants and was diagnosed with an inflamed left shoulder. It’s the same injury that disabled him earlier in the season. The Dodgers were forced to use 24-year old rookie Carlos Frias for a spot start Wednesday afternoon against the Rockies in Denver.

But Frias got torched this afternoon, and now the Dodgers may not be able to use him on Monday evening. What do the Dodgers do here?

I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to tell me that it’s Ned Colletti’s fault that the Dodgers didn’t get anyone at the July 31 trade deadline.  You’re probably going to tell me the Dodgers didn’t get anyone good during the waiver trade period of August. I can’t argue with you there and won’t. The Dodgers have zero starting pitching depth right now, and it is Colletti’s fault to a certain extent. Yes Roberto Hernandez, and Kevin Correia are awful. No question there.

You could argue that the Dodgers should have traded for David Price, or should have picked up Bartolo Colon. I agree now. That kind of talk doesn’t help us much. He didn’t get anyone good. Maybe he couldn’t? I don’t know. It’s too late now. Let’s move on.

The question is, what do the Dodgers do now? The Dodgers have three choices. They can…….

A. start Carlos Frias in Ryu’s spot on Monday night against the Giants.

At this point after Frias got torched in Colorado, I’m beginning to think this is a bad idea. Let’s not throw Frias out there again and hope he doesn’t sink. He’s not a hot shot prospect, and he’s not a veteran with experience. He really is just a non-descript minor league pitcher that the Dodgers have had to call on because everybody else got hurt. He has a live arm, but if anyone had been able to survive the season without blowing out their arms, then he isn’t here. He’s made two career major league starts. One was good, and one was horrendous. Would you trust him against the Giants with the NL West on the line?

So maybe choice B would be better? B. Use Hyu-jin Ryu as scheduled.

The Dodgers may not even be able to do this. We have no idea if Ryu will be able to go on September 22. He might, but all signs are pointing to him not being ready to go. This is the same shoulder soreness that sidelined him for three weeks back in April and early May. It’s a timeline of at least two weeks of rest. Maybe having an injured Ryu pitching is better than Frias?

I don’t know. More than likely, Ryu will not be available to pitch on Monday night. So if not a sore Ryu, or Carlos Frias, then who?

This brings me to option C…..Dan Haren.

I know I know! I know what you’re going to say. Haren is not very good. I know. I still think he’s been decent.  At this point the Dodgers have no other options. If Ryu is unable to pitch, then they’re going to have to go with Haren. Here’s what I think they may end up doing.

Haren is scheduled to pitch the series finale Sunday afternoon at Chicago. What the Dodgers would have to do is push Haren back to Monday, and then use a bullpen game for Sunday afternoon against Chicago. It’s not ideal, but it could be the Dodger’s best choice.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

(I write this now before having to watch Kevin Correia pitch four innings at Wrigley Field)

Let me back this up with some numbers.

Haren has pitched well against the Giants in his career. The veteran right hander is 6-6 with a 3.05 ERA in 17 starts. He has one shutout, and has allowed just ten home runs in over 106 innings pitched.

Haren has limited the Giants to just eight extra base-hits. The current Giants are hitting just .220 (18 for 82) with just two home runs against him. The Giants have a .671 OPS against Haren, and have just six walks in 90 plate appearances. The only Giant that has had any success against Haren is Pablo Sandoval. The portly panda has hit .333 (5 for 15) with one double, and one triple versus Haren.

Remember the Giants have some injuries too. Angel Pagan is now out with more back problems, and Mike Morse isn’t expected to return anytime soon from a strained oblique.

Consider this as well, Haren had been pitching pretty well of late. Before the Colorado start, Haren had a 5-1 record and a 1.70 ERA in his last six decisions. Haren is 13-11 with a 4.14 ERA against the National league. I’m willing to throw the Colorado start out the window. He got hit, yeah, but he wasn’t Carlos Frias. And it was at Coors field. Haren may not be able to blow guys away anymore, but he still has good off-speed stuff and the ability to keep hitters off balance. If Haren can continue to embrace his change into a finesse pitcher then he may end up surprising us.

If Ryu can go, and he’s healthy, then there is no question that you use him. Of course, of course. But if Ryu can’t go then I’m afraid the Dodgers will have little choice but to push Haren back a day and use him on Monday night. The Dodgers can’t entrust these important games to a rookie.

Dan Haren needs six more innings before his player option for 2015 vests. Let me ask you this…..If Haren pitches a shutout against the Giants on Monday, would that change your perception of him?

This may be the Dodgers best and only workable option. It could also be a chance for Haren to redeem himself with the Dodger fam. Who could have thought that the Dodger season may rest on Dan Haren’s shoulders. Irony sucks.