To put it charitably, Dan Haren’s previous start this season against the Cincinnati Reds did not go very well.
Haren served as the tee for what became a 15-0 Reds rout at Great American Ball Park on April 5, giving up nine hits (including four homers) and six runs in four innings in his season debut. The veteran right-hander has surrendered three earned runs in each of his subsequent three starts, unable to pitch beyond the fifth inning in any of them.
Part of the problem, Nationals manager Davey Johnson believes, is that Haren might have been trying too hard out of the gate to keep up with his young-gun rotation mates.
“I think Haren was building arm strength in the spring and came out trying to join the group of flamethrowers, mid-90s guys, and he quit doing things that make him successful: locate the ball, control the bat speed by changing speeds,” Johnson said Saturday morning. “He showed more signs of going back to that his last time out.”
According to Pitch f/x data on FanGraphs.com, Haren’s fastball is running 0.9 mph faster this year than a year ago at 89.4 mph, and his cutter is 1.3 mph faster at 85.8. How would Johnson feel if he sees Haren topping out at 87-88 mph today?
“I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine,” he said. “It’s his location and change of speeds.”
But, Johnson emphasized, “in attack mode, not in a defensive mode.”