Monday, August 20, 2012

Dan Haren, And Fantasy Baseball, Has Made Me Crazy

In my keeper league, instead of just strikeouts per nine innings or total strikeouts, we do strikeouts divided by walks. Many people think this is kind of quirky or nuts, since we also have WHIP, which means that you are penalized twice for a walk -- and the intentional walk is especially galling. But this is what the first league I was ever in did, and it's a nice predictive indicator, since it's a better stat. Also, it means that you can build for the category in two ways, either through one monster WHIP guy or through a staff full of people who hit a better than average mark. I like it.

Needless to say, I stress K/BB every year. Needless to say, I never do well in it.

Last year, I had kept Jose Reyes for a big number, despite the injury history. I had a good feeling about him in a contract year, and that's exactly what happened -- he was a monster for the Mets. Halfway through the year, with SBs locked up and Reyes not needing to do much for me to lock down a money finish, I moved him to the Mets fan in our league for Dan Haren. Haren, the most durable K/BB monster in the bigs, a man who was basically the right-handed Cliff Lee for me. 5.8 K/BB last year, and a 3 number here will get you among the leaders. A big deal, especially when you pour 200 strikeouts into it, and pitching in a pitcher's park, with half of your division games against the weak-hitting A's and Mariners. Tasty.

Haren helped me raise through the ranks and take down second place money, but he also cost a ton to keep. Starting pitchers are fungible, even durable ones. Haren, to keep for 2012, would lock down $32 out of a $250 contract cap, which was nearly 14% of my overall budget. My most expensive keeper, and he turned out to be my most expensive player. It's a good league; every dollar counts, especially in the end game when you are scrambling for the last few spots that can make or break your keepers for the next year. I really did want to get away from the hand, to use poker parlance.

But the lure of good ratios from the jump was too great. So I kept him. Here's what my highest paid player has given me so far this year.

8 wins, a 4.90 ERA, a 1.39 WHIP, and as the final kick in the ass... a 3.06 K/BB. In a little more than 128 innings of meh.

Now, Haren is not morally to blame here; it's not as if he's come in fat or unmotivated or whining at the manager or anything else. He's had a back injury which led to his first DL trip ever, and had I gotten away from him in May, when things started to go south, I'd have a 3.5 ERA, 1.2 WHIP and 5 K/BB for my troubles. But I wasn't in a position of categorical strength to do so, and I'm not quick on the trigger when it comes to dealing my studs.

Haren's last two starts haven't gotten out of the fourth inning, with a combined total of 7 IP, 12 H, 10 ERs, 3 BBs and 2 Ks. Against, um, Seattle and Tampa, the latter of whom had just gotten off a perfect skunk job from Felix Hernandez. So instead of pouring more ratio pain into a pitcher who no longer has my trust, and keeps missing starts from his manager trying to get him right, I cut him for the two-start stream this week of Freddy Garcia. Which is to say, streaming bouts of unowned whatever.

What happens with the position next week, I have no idea. But I have a hard time imagining it will be Haren, or if I'll ever own him again. Oh, there's also this: I've wanted to have this guy, for, like, ever. He was an Athletic back in the last days of complete trust in Billy Beane, someone I defended despite spurious bad second halves.

Sometimes in fantasy, you cut a pitcher -- and it's always a pitcher, because they are always the ones that ruin you, much more than any 0-for-4 from a position player possibly could. You imagine actually doing it in person, or at least, I do. I walk out to the mound to take the ball from the guy, then stopping him as he walks to the dugout, shaking your head no. Then you remove the jersey from you guy, or just tear off the shoulder patches, like in the military.

That's not what's happened with Haren. Here, it's just sadness, like he's actually going to be released from the majors, or given a terminal diagnosis.

When, of course, what's going to happen is that he's going to get his back problem straightened out, some other team will claim him for nothing on the waiver wire, and I'll spend the next 3 to 5 years watching him be the man for a team that tops me in the ratio that I made happen...

And will never, ever, be good at.

Godspeed, Dan. Godspeed.

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