Dan Haren ponders his nightmare start (USAT)
I'm out of new excuses, how about you? When do things get better for Dan Haren?
The veteran righty was terrible in 2012, largely blamed on injury problems. Okay, that's understandable. Haren threw batting practice in spring training last month (6.39 ERA, seven homers over 25.1 innings), but hey, those games don't count.
When Haren dished up four taters in Cincinnati two weeks back, the apologists shrugged - the Reds are a strong ball club and their ballpark plays cozy on most nights. Haren was mediocre in his second turn (5 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 5 K), though he picked up a win.
And then came Tuesday's start against Miami, another step backwards. On paper, it was a delightful matchup: a start in Miami against the worst offense (by far) in the majors. And Giancarlo Stanton, the lone threat in the Marlins lineup, was once again a pregame scratch.
So much for the easy victory. Haren was knocked around for seven hits and seven runs (three earned) over 4.1 innings. He walked one, struck out just two, and the immortal Adeiny Hechavarria took him over the bridge fish tank (certainly nothing cheap about that one).
Now it's time for the spin doctors. What do we do with Haren going forward?
The optimists in the crowd will note Haren's strikeout/walk ratio for the year (12 whiffs, one walk) and the mild uptick in his fastball and slider velocity. Haren's teammates didn't take their talents to South Beach; a throwing error from Ryan Zimmerman mucked up the fourth inning, and the Washington bullpen permitted two of Haren's leftover base runners to score. Haren has been a bankable fantasy cornerstone for several years and he's still just 32; patient owners aren't kicking him to the curb.
Conversely, there are plenty of rotoheads who won't wait for things to straighten out. Haren was dropped in over 3,400 Yahoo! leagues Tuesday and more pink slips are on the way. Haren's swinging strike rate fell to 8.7 percent last year and it's dipped to 7.7 through his three turns this season. And batters aren't just making contact against Haren, they're squaring him up: note the 24.5 percent line-drive rate in 2013.
I didn't want Haren in the preseason and I'm glad he's not my problem today. If I found him dropped in a medium or deep mixed league, perhaps I'd be willing to take a chance, betting on back class and the current K/BB numbers. But there's no way I'd let him have a start on any active roster until I saw improvement in a game or two. I'm not doing anything aggressive in this case, that's for sure. (Your Haren trade offer? Sure, send it over. I know how to click on the reject button. I'm not spending any resources with respect to acquiring him.)
• While I can at least build a mild case for Haren optimism, Ubaldo Jimenez is a pitcher I have zero faith in. Even with a Houston start coming on the weekend, I can't endorse the guy in clear conscience. Maybe it's time for everyone in baseball to shrug their collective shoulders and admit this is a lost cause.
Jimenez had his second straight 7&7 start in Tuesday's loss to Boston, departing before the second inning was complete. He walked five, struck out just one, allowed sharp contact throughout. It's a case of snowflake mechanics: no two deliveries are ever the same. If you can't repeat your mechanics, you can't be successful pitching in the majors.
Jimenez was a 2.88/1.15 man back in Colorado in 2010, which seems like ages ago. We've seen 66 nightmare starts since then. You're welcome to offer a positive spin in the comments but I'm not going to sign the petition. If I were doing a Shuffle Up on the mound today, Jimenez would have a negative price attached.
• The worst fears were confirmed in Arizona, where Aaron Hill (fractured hand) is going to miss 4-6 weeks. Plan B is now underway in the desert dugout: rookie Didi Gregorius will play shortstop, with Cliff Pennington slithering over to second base. Gregorius began the year as a Top 100 prospect on most scouting lists but it's entirely because of his defense; he was a .243/.288/.427 stick in 48 games at Triple-A last year, with six homers and no steals (his minor-league OPS is a paltry .694 over 486 games). There's no reason to pay him any mind in a standard mixed league.
If you need a new second basemen for your fake club, here are a few names to consider:
-- Very shallow: Matt Carpenter (75-percent owned, what's keeping you?), Everth Cabrera (69 percent).
-- Shallow: Omar Infante (28 percent), Jedd Gyorko (37 percent).
-- Medium/Deep: Chris Nelson (8 percent), Chris Getz (5 percent), Darwin Barney (4 percent), Jordany Valdespin (5 percent), Mark Ellis (6 percent).
Speed Round: So much for Chris Capuano optimism: the Padres knocked him around for seven hits and five runs, and now Capuano needs an MRI on his sore calf. Looks like we'll see Ted Lilly in this spot eventually . . . With Joel Hanrahan (hamstring) finally on the DL, the baton in the Red Sox bullpen clearly rests with Andrew Bailey . . . Next up on Hoarders: the Cubs and their collection of sketchy relievers. Kevin Gregg joined the team Tuesday, while Kameron Loe was a weekend acquisition from the waiver wire. My save handicapping for Wrigley: James Russell short term, Kyuji Fujikawa long term. But Dale Sveum doesn't have my new cell number . . . Freddie Freeman (oblique) took some cuts Tuesday and might be able to return on schedule early next week . . . Michael Bourn (hand) hit the DL, though the club suspects it will be a minimum-length stay . . . Eric Young picked up a full day while Dexter Fowler (foot) rested, collecting four hits, three runs, two RBIs and a steal in the twin-bill against the Mets. I'd love to see Young someday get a regular gig with the Rockies; it's never been tried for an extensive period of time. He's still just 27 . . . The Derek Jeter return timetable continues to push backwards. Joe Girardi says a May 1 return isn't going to happen . . . Ben Revere took another collar, dropping his average to .207, and he's not guaranteed to stick in the leadoff spot. Batting slot is critical for most National League rabbits; there's a natural disincentive to running near the bottom of the order, in front of the pitcher spot.
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