Haren’s uncharacteristic struggles continue …

The Angels came back in emphatic fashion on Friday night, turning a 5-0 deficit into an 8-5 victory to move to a season-best seven games over .500.

That’s the good part.

The bad part is Dan Haren got them into that early hole by giving up five runs on six hits and three walks in the first two innings, throwing 46 pitches and surrendering a first-inning three-run homer to former Angels outfielder Bobby Abreu, only his second in 49 games this year. He settled down after that, hurling three scoreless frames despite having a runner on each time to somehow get the win, but Haren has hardly looked like his masterful self this year.

From 2005-11, he ranked second in the Majors in innings and still managed to post a 3.49 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and a 4.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Through 15 starts this year (seven of them “quality”), his ERA is 4.24, his WHIP is 1.37 and his K/BB rate is 3.7.

Solid? Perhaps. Haren-like? Hardly.

“I have to get better,” Haren said. “I don’t want to bring the team down.”

Haren was pitching on six days’ rest tonight, a scenario that had yielded a 5.03 ERA in his career. Asked if that was a factor in his early struggles, Haren said: “It might’ve a little bit, but I’m not going to make any excuses.”

Asked if he’s still feeling pain in his lower back, which he experienced during a rough May 8 start in Minnesota and could explain why his cutter and splitter looked so flat on Friday, Haren said: “It’s not an issue. It was earlier in the year, but that’s the least amount of problems out there.”

Haren just felt his command was simply too erratic, he got behind in counts too often and he made too many mistakes up in the strike zone.

“It just looked like everything was up, was flat, it didn’t look like he was attacking the zone, nibbling,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “It’s very uncharacteristic for Dan to walk anybody. … But I think the last couple innings, he really got after it and turned the ball loose and pitched like he can.”

The Angels will hope he can carry that into his next start.

Alden

4 Comments

I have to get better,” Haren said. “I don’t want to bring the team down.

Command aside, the elephant in the room is Haren’s declining velocity. He’s lost 2 mph across the board (with the exception of his splitter) compared to when he arrived here in 2010. His fastball was at 91-92 throughout his Cardinal/A’s years and has been consistently 88-89 this year (lowest of his career). While we can’t simply assume that lost velocity is the reason his line drive and flyball rates are up, and groundball and IF fly rates have dropped this year, but every pitcher has a tipping point. But when you see a workhorse starte lose a full 1 mph in less than a calendar year, you have to ask if we’re looking the early effects of an injury that has yet to flare or the start of his decline from top shelf starter to aging veteran status.

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He settled down after that, hurling three scoreless frames despite having a runner on each time to somehow get the win, but Haren has hardly looked like his masterful self this year.

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