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2015 Miami Marlins Season Preview: Dan Haren

The Miami Marlins got their free $10 million man in Dan Haren to commit to pitching in 2015. But how good is he?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins acquired Dan Haren and the $10 million required to pay his 2015 salary from the Los Angeles Dodgers as part the Dee Gordon - Andrew Heaney trade. The goal was to buy a reasonably effective pitcher with good strikeout-to-walk ratios and a home run problem and pair him with a park that suppresses home runs better than few places in the league. The problem was that the Fish could not be certain that Haren would actually come to Miami, because he had threatened to retire if he was not playing for a west coast team.

Eventually, the problem was resolved, and cooler (and richer) heads prevailed. Haren agreed to pitch for Miami and play out his deal, and the Marlins have one of the more accomplished fifth starters in the league once Jose Fernandez returns from injury. Given his profile, Haren fits nicely as a pitcher with mild upside even at his age.

Starting Rotation

1. Jose Fernandez
2. Henderson Alvarez
3. Mat Latos
4. Jarred Cosart
5. Dan Haren

Additional Depth: Tom Koehler, David Phelps, Brad Hand, Tom Koehler
Minor League Depth: Justin Nicolino, Jose Urena, Adam Conley

Haren has not been the same guy he was from a few years back. He relies on a cutter and a fastball as his primary pitches, both of which hover in the mid- to high-80's in velocity. Haren has not averaged a 90 mph fastball since 2012, which partially explains his sudden decline in ability. After a 3.12 ERA and 2.98 FIP year in 2011 for the Los Angeles Angels, Haren has posted three straight years with an overall ERA of 4.33 and a FIP of 4.19. Those marks were 17 and 11 percent worse than the league average in that time span.

The biggest culprit of this issue was his rising home run rate. After allowing just one homer per nine innings for most of his career before 2012, Haren gave up 1.4 homers per nine innings in the last three years with the Angels and Dodgers. It should come as no surprise that the homer counts have bumped just as his fastball and other pitches slowly transitioned to lower velocities. This is likely a loss in true skill, as Haren is getting hit harder than he was before.

However, many of his other skills have been retained. He still holds an impeccable walk rate, which stood at 4.7 percent from 2012 to 2014. His strikeout rate was down slightly from his career mark, but the loss was not as dramatic as the home run gain. His strikeout-to-walk ratios have remained excellent throughout this time period; his 14.1 percent difference between his strikeout and walk rate in 2014 was still 32nd in the league, alongside other solid starters like John Lackey and Ervin Santana. Haren is nowhere close to an ace anymore, but he does not appear to have lost everything.

Putting him in Marlins Park is the perfect way to revitalize his numbers. Miami's home stadium has the third-lowest home run park factor in baseball, ahead of only AT&T Park and PNC Park according to FanGraphs. Haren's biggest issue can be toned down a lot by playing half of his games in a friendly stadium for pitchers. Haren's descent into a fly ball pitcher from his earlier balanced days is not going to be reversed next season, but it may be a good thing with Marlins Park's deep walls and the team's excellent outfield defense.

Photo by Steve Mitchell, USA TODAY Sports

Projection
Haren, 2015 IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP WAR
ZiPS 151 2/3 7.2 2.0 4.09 3.83 1.6
Steamer 160 6.8 1.9 3.88 3.90 1.6
PECOTA 168 7.4 1.7 3.77 3.48 0.8

Haren's numbers look good when transplanted into Miami. The strikeout and walk averages appear to match up with his work in the last three years; while that might not be where his career highs once were, it is more than serviceable at the back of the rotation. Each system is expecting just about 19 homers allowed in similar numbers of innings pitched, which would be a drop from the near-30 homer seasons he put up in the last three years.

Haren should pitch fewer innings this year on account of possible injury as he continues to age. However, the 34 year-old reversed that trend last year when he reached 180 innings and vested his 2015 option. Overall, another projection of 165 innings seems reasonable for him this year. With an average expected ERA of 3.83, Haren would put up a two-win season for the Marlins.

This is an excellent pickup at the tail end of the rotation for the Marlins. Very few rosters have near-league average starters on the back side of the rotation, and the Fish boast good depth with a few other players of interest behind Haren and Jarred Cosart. The players who will fill in the fifth rotation spot in Jose Fernandez's absence are of decent caliber, but once Fernandez returns, the team may be able to say that they have one of the best fifth starters in the league.