Dan Haren’s home run woes

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

With the Nationals’ 6-5 loss to Pittsburgh on Monday, right-hander Dan Haren fell to 4-11 on the season. His ERA is among the highest in the National League. He hasn’t won a game since May 9.

The reason? Simple: Haren is getting beat by the long ball.

He gave up a pair of two-run homers to Andrew McCutchen in Monday’s loss, one in the first inning and another in the third. He has now allowed 21 home runs in 18 starts, a career-worst average of 1.93 dingers per nine innings. His previous worst was 1.4 per nine innings.

“That’s kind of been the story of the year for me: Every mistake I’ve made, I’ve paid the price for it,” he said. “If I could take those two pitches back, things would be a lot different. But the fact of the matter is I can’t.”

Haren has watched more balls clear the fence this season than all but four Major League starters, and he’s already surpassed his home run allowance for the entire 2011 season (20). Of his 63 earned runs this season, 33 have come on home runs.

But if you forget about his astronomical home run numbers for a minute, Haren actually isn’t having that bad of a season. He’s striking out more batters than usual, and walking fewer. In fact, if Haren was allowing a career-norm 1.1 homers per nine innings this season instead of 1.93, he would have given up 12 homers instead of 21. His ERA would probably be in the mid-fours instead of the high-fives.

“I’m able to get strikeouts, I’m not walking too many guys, but the home runs have just killed me,” he said. “A very high percentage of the runs I’ve given up this year have been from the home run. Just not able to minimize it. When I’ve been successful this year, I’ve been able to keep the ball down and get the ball on the ground, but [I’m] just giving up way too many home runs.”

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