The immediate question as far as this site is concerned is simple: What does this do for his fantasy value? Personally, I think it does good things.
The first thing we need to look at is Haren’s 2012 season, which was just not that good. I actually see this is similar to what happened to Tim Lincecum last season. I know that Haren’s best days don’t quite stack up to Lincecum’s, but his 2012 wasn’t nearly as bad. But the conclusion that I drew with Timmy is more or less the same that I have with Haren. They’re both good pitchers who had bad years. It happens. But I think both will be back in strong form in 2013.
But let’s look at the actual move itself and see how it changes things.
The only immediate negative that pops into my head is the change of home venues. Angel Stadium grades out as a 92 for both pitchers and hitters by Baseball-Reference, while they rank Nationals Park at an even 100 for both hitters and pitchers. As it happens, 100 is pretty much neutral (which is about right for anyone who’s watched a game at Nationals Park), while a 92 means it’s a serious pitcher’s park.
Still, I don’t worry too much about Haren pitching in a more hitter-friendly home stadium. Chase Field is a big time hitter’s Park, coming in at 106 for hitters and 105 for pitchers on the Baseball-Reference scale, and Haren enjoyed a lot of success there while with the Diamondbacks. No, he wasn’t great for them in 2010 before getting traded to the Angels, but in the previous two full seasons he had an ERA of 3.23 and 1.064. Haren’s the kind of pitcher who can have a good year anywhere.
There are three real positives that I see here.
Perhaps the least meaningful positive is that this is only a one-year contract, even if it is for more than $13 million. So, I don’t see Haren getting complacent as a risk. He’ll be under the gun to produce a big season if he wants a good contract next year. That never hurts.
After that is the move from the American League to the National League, specifically the National League East. He’ll see a lot of the Braves and Phillies, but also a lot of the Mets and depleted Marlins. In terms of parks, Nationals Park is neutral, Citizen’s Bank Park is a live yard while Citi Field, Turner Field, and Marlins Park are all good pitching venues.
Also, while I think people overrate this sometimes, not having to face a designated hitter won’t hurt matters, especially in the strikeout department.
The second is that while I think the Angels will be good in 2013, I like the Nationals a lot more, which means more wins. The Angels will probably score more runs, but not by a significant amount, as the Nationals are pretty solid offensively.
But perhaps more important than run support is holding the lead that a pitcher leaves with, and I just trust the Nationals bullpen a lot more than the Angels. In 2012, the Nationals were tied for ninth place in league save percentage at 75 percent, while the Angels were tied for 24th at 63 percent. The Nationals bullpen had a 3.23 ERA, while the Angels were in the bottom 10 in the league, coming in at 3.97.
Wins aren’t the greatest stat to measure a pitcher’s value but don’t kid yourself, they matter in fantasy sports. With the Nationals, I just see Haren winning more games now than he would have if he had stayed in Anaheim.
As for specific value, in our Couch Managers Mock Draft, Haren went in the 14th round, 117th overall. Obviously, that was before he signed anywhere. I now feel pretty confident sliding him somewhere around Round 10, which works out to between 90th and 100th overall. I liked Haren to have a strong bounce-back season already, and this move only makes me more confident.