Is Hitting Success Hurting Haren?

The two questions that immediately come to mind when talking about Diamondbacks pitcher Dan Haren’s 2010 season are: Why is he struggling so badly on the mound and where did this sudden offensive prowess come from?

Throughout his career, Haren has always been knows as a fast starter who dominated during the first half of the season then tried to hold on during the second half. There have been theories that pitch count and innings pitched just wear Haren out over the course of 162 games. Given his domination he showed the first two years as a Diamondback the team and fans have been willing to accept the tale of two halves if it meant having domination over the first three months of the season.

This year Haren appears to have picked up when he left off in 2009 and has struggled in most of his starts this season. It is not that Haren has been horrible; it is just that he has looked anything but dominating with a rare pitching gem thrown in just to confuse us.

A typical Haren outing goes something like this: He throws 80 percent strikes pitching ahead in the count for most of the game. Then inexplicably he will leave a few pitches over the plate that are launched for home runs.

With the Diamondbacks inconsistent offense these home runs are generally enough to change a victory into a defeat. In all fairness it should be noted that it is not just Haren who has been susceptible to the long ball. That has been a systematic problem for nearly all of the Diamondbacks pitchers. In the case of Haren, it is not typical.

At nearly the same time, Haren has emerged as perhaps the best hitter on the Arizona Diamondbacks active roster. That is both a testament to Haren’s effectiveness at the plate and a sad state of affairs where a starting pitcher is better than the position players at the plate.

It has not just been a one or two game fluke. Haren has been deadly at the plate all season sporting a batting average of .400 in 35 at bats. This has included five doubles and four runs batted in. These are the kinds of statistics you want to see from a pinch hitter off the bench not from your best starting pitcher.

Haren has taken special pleasure in his hitting and is now pleading with manager AJ Hinch to bat him higher than ninth in the order. Diamondbacks fans feel a little déjà vu watching Haren hit as they reminisce about the days of Micah Owings being used as a pinch hitter late in a game.

Like Owings, Haren now finds his offense overshadowing his pitching and that’s not a good thing. While the offensive numbers are great, the team’s success hinges on the effectiveness of his arm not his bat. So while it is novel and exciting to see Haren circling the bases after a hit and run; this team is not going to climb out of the NL West basement on the strength of Haren’s batting average.



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