Dan Haren, Game 2 Starter?


I like Haren surrounded by people wearing blue much more than anything else. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a hot take if I ever saw one. I’ve seen it suggested from time to time, which is certainly an outlandish statement, pitcher who owns a 2.71 ERA/ 2.97 FIP / 2.72 xFIP pitching split shouldn’t start game two behind the best pitcher on the planet? It’s unconventional to say the least.

And honestly, this comes down to comfort. How comfortable do you feel with Dan Haren starting a game in the playoffs, because he will in this NLDS. That should get cleared up, the fact that Dan Haren is guaranteed to start a game this postseason unless the Dodgers get swept out in 3 games.

What’s the rationale behind this? NLDS game 4 showed Kershaw on short rest, only to watch Freddy Garcia match him pitch for pitch, but Uribe mercifully bailed the Dodgers out.

What am I getting at?

Well, that offseason, Kershaw was handed a shiny 215 million dollar extension to be the face of the franchise. And given that the Dodgers haven’t fared well in his starts on short rest recently, coupled with the fact that Dan Haren has looked infinitely better right now than Ricky Nolasco this time last season means that I’d be shocked if they hand the ball to Kershaw in game 4 in this NLDS, should it get there.

So it’s very likely that the Dodgers will have 4 starters in this NLDS provided they don’t sweep the Redbirds, or get swept. Which means Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren are going to start. Kershaw is on track to start game 1, and according to the man himself, Greinke will start game 2 in Dodger stadium

It’s understandable, and honestly I may be off base in saying that Haren should start game 2 in  LA, but it’s a thought that should at least be considered. Why?

His splits.

I’ve stated how down I am on Haren. A guy with a 4.02 ERA in Dodger stadium translates to a 87 ERA+, which is mediocre on it’s own, but when you take into account that he leads the majors in unearned runs allowed which is indicative of his pitching ability at least a little bit. You can see why one may not be so high on him as a starter, but he’s been good recently, and whether that’s sustainable (it’s not) is up for debate, but I feel way better about him right now than Ricky Nolasco, and that means something right now.

Sample Sizes are an issue in home/road splits, but Haren owns a 3.32 ERA, a 3.88 FIP, and a .285 wOBA against in 95 innings pitched at home, versus a 4.75 ERA, 4.31 FIP, .331 wOBA against on the road in 91 IP.

The splits are pretty extreme.

And a reminder, the playoffs are such a crapshoot that Clayton Kershaw could give up 9 earned runs in one game while Chris Capuano pitches your way to a game 3 win because sample sizes are a crazy beast. However, I’m firmly in the camp of “oh my goodness I do not want to see Dan Haren start a playoff game in Busch Stadium”. I feel that Dodger pitching named Kershaw Greinke and Ryu can shut down the Cardinals offense, but I have no faith in Dan Haren whatsoever.

It all comes down to a matter of comfort. Apparently, this team is comfortable with starting Haren in Busch Stadium and “settling” for starting 2 of the top 5 pitchers in the NL (one of them being the best pitcher on the planet), and that’s great. Having 3 great pitchers and one serviceable one is a pretty damned good plan, but maybe starting Haren in game 2 at home improves the Dodgers chances to advance to the NLCS by putting Haren in the least awful situation possible. Will it decide a series? Probably not. Do I think the Dodgers have a better chance of stealing a game in Dodger stadium with Dan Haren pitching as opposed to the Dodgers stealing a game in Busch Stadium with Dan Haren pitching? Absolutely.