The Nationals handed Haren $13 million this winter to strengthen the back of their rotation. After the Colorado Rockies pummeled him in a 7-1 loss Saturday afternoon, they may not be able to justify giving him another start. Haren retired one batter before he yielded a home run, recorded just 10 outs total and, before the game was half-expired, obliterated the momentum the Nationals gathered during a three-game winning streak.
Haren allowed six earned runs in 3 1
3 innings, the worst start of a nightmare season. The Rockies ripped seven hits, starting with DJ LeMahieu’s home run in the first and ending with pitcher Jhoulys Chacin’s RBI single in the fourth. Haren mixed in two wild pitches, one of which pushed home a run. His ERA rose to 6.15.
Haren has vacillated between adequate and awful all year, but his recent penchant toward the latter reached a critical juncture Saturday.
“I don’t want to speculate on what I’m thinking about right here,” Johnson said. “But I do have some concern.”
“I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about it,” Haren said. “It’s a performance-based business. I’m not getting the job done.”
Johnson will attend Haren’s side session Monday, a day off for the team, before determining whether Haren will make his next start. Johnson wondered if a physical issue had led to Haren’s recent series of meltdowns.
“There might be something bothering him I don’t know about,” Johnson said. “If it’s something physical, sometimes you miss a start, that kind of thing.”
Haren, 32, raised red flags this winter after hip and back issues surfaced last season. He insisted his disastrous seasons owe to simple performance, not health.
“There’s aches and pains,” Haren said. “Nothing I haven’t pitched through in the past. Physically, I’m okay. I’ve been better. I’ve been worse. It’s still no excuse for what’s going on.”
What’s going on is this: One of the most accomplished right-handers of the last decade has devolved into one of the most hapless starters in baseball. From 2003 through 2012, only six pitchers compiled more wins above replacement. No pitcher has thrown more inviting pitches this season. Opposing hitters have clobbered 19 home runs and compiled an .879 on-base-plus-slugging percentage against him, both the highest totals in the National League.
His fastball, splitter and cutter all hover at roughly the same speed, between 84 and 91 mph. For years, the combination confused and overwhelmed opponents. This year, because of diminished velocity, less movement and poor location, they have resembled batting practice.