Veteran major league starter Dan Haren announced his retirement this week. He was a good solid pitcher for a long time; let's honor his career with a Prospect Retrospective.
Dan Haren was drafted in the second round in 2001, by the St. Louis Cardinals out of Pepperdine University. Some teams considered him as a late first-rounder, but the '01 class was rich in pitching and Haren fell to the second round, 72nd overall. He had been very successful at Pepperdine, going 11-3, 2.22 with a 97/31 K/BB in 130 innings on the season. A big guy at 6-5, 220, he worked in the 90-92 range in college but would occasionally get up to 94-95, also showing a good splitter, curveball, and changeup.
He continued to pitch well in the New York-Penn League after signing, posting a 3.10 ERA with a 57/8 K/BB ratio in 52 innings, demonstrating excellent command. I gave him a Grade B- entering 2002, pending some higher-level data, writing that he "doesn't have the ceiling of some guys," but would likely advance rapidly through the system. I thought he'd be a command-oriented inning-eater type.
Haren split 2002 between Peoria in the Midwest League (7-3, 1.95 with a 89/12 K/BB in 102 innings) and Potomac in the Carolina League (3-6, 3.62 with a 82/19 K/BB in 92 innings), throwing 194 innings on the season, which was a lot for a minor league starter even a decade ago. He demonstrated excellent command as shown by the K/BB, but his velocity was down into the 88-92 range for most of the season. I wrote that Haren was "a good solid prospect, probably not a future ace, but somebody who will be a sound rotation starter if he stays healthy" and gave him a Grade B in the 2003 book.
2003 saw Haren off to a brilliant start at Double-A Tennessee, going 6-0, 0.82 with a 49/6 K/BB in 55 innings. He was less effective, though still very efficient, in Triple-A with a 4.93 ERA but a 35/8 K/BB in 46 innings. Pushed into major league action, he went 3-7, 5.08 with a 43/22 K/BB in 73 innings for the Cardinals, allowing 84 hits. The general consensus was that he had been rushed, but that he at least threw some strikes. Most people still viewed him as an inning-eater type.
Haren split 2004 between Triple-A Memphis (11-4, 4.15 with a 150/33 K/BB in 128 innings, but 136 hits allowed) and St. Louis (4.50 ERA, 32/17 K/BB in 46 innings, 45 hits). His second go-around the majors was more impressive, and he posted a 1.17 ERA with the Cardinals that September. However, the Cards opted to go the veteran route for their rotation in 2005, trading Haren with Kiko Calero and Daric Barton to Oakland for Mark Mulder in December.
As you likely remember, Haren blossomed with the Athletics, then was involved in a major trade with the Diamondbacks, with a 6.1 WAR and 138 ERA+ in 2008 and a 5.7 WAR with 142 ERA+ in 2009. After another excellent season with the Angels in 2011 (6.2 WAR), he began a steady fade. Although he held his spot with the Washington Nationals in 2013 and the Dodgers in 2014, he was an essentially league-average pitcher, not that there's anything wrong with that.
Haren's 2014 season with the Marlins and the Cubs was a solid coda to his career: 3.60 ERA, 108 ERA+ in 187 innings, 132/38 K/BB. He's retiring while still a reasonably effective pitcher, going out on a positive note.
Overall in his career, Haren pitched 2420 innings, going 153-131, 3.75 ERA, 110 ERA+, 3.78 FIP, 2013/500 K/BB, and 40.9 fWAR. He made four All-Star teams and led the league in K/BB ratio three times, testifying to his command. Looking for historical comps, his closest Sim Score comparables (retired pitchers only) include Chris Carpenter, Kevin Tapani, Mike Boddicker, Bill Gullickson, and Jon Lieber.
Among pitchers with a similar number of innings pitched, Haren's fWAR of 40.9 in 2420 innings puts him in the neighborhood with Bob Rush (43.7 in 2411), Deacon Phillippe (42.2 in 2607), Virgil Trucks (42 in 2602), John Candelaria (41.6 in 2526), Burt Hooton (40.4 in 2652), Schoolboy Rowe (40.1 in 2219), and Chris Carpenter again (39.1 in 2219). Jake Peavy and John Lackey also rate as quite similar but are still active of course.
Although not a superstar, Haren was a very good and efficient pitcher, exactly as predicted when he was in the minors.
(Parts of this retro were published previously in an earlier form)