A quick thought, as we wait for Game 3 of the NLDS to kick off tonight. It’s been reported that if Hyun-jin Ryu needs a long reliever, it’s going to be Dan Haren, who is also the scheduled Game 4 starter tomorrow. It makes sense to plan, because we haven’t seen Ryu on the mound in three weeks, since he went just one inning against the Giants. That can’t happen again, and you need a backup plan.
To be honest, Haren as a reliever sounds terrifying to me. In the last 10 seasons, 329 of Haren’s 331 appearances have been starts. One of the two that came in relief was in an emergency 14th inning in 2011. The other was in an emergency 15th inning appearance last year. That’s not to say he can’t do it, just that he hasn’t come into a game as a reliever other than deep in extras since Shawn Green, Alex Cora, Jeff Weaver, and Jose Lima were Dodgers.
There’s also the fact that Haren hasn’t really made it off to quick starts this year, as the table to the right shows. (That’s OPS in each inning, both for this year and his career. I don’t love OPS, but wRC+ wasn’t available for this.) As usual, don’t overemphasize a relatively small single-year number too much — I’m just having a hard time forgetting the eight first-inning homers he’s allowed this year.
Obviously, Haren can’t relieve today and start tomorrow, but ultimately that issue doesn’t matter. If Ryu is bad enough, early enough, that Haren has to come in, then the Dodgers are likely down 2-1 and Clayton Kershaw is obviously starting on short rest in Game 4. If Ryu is bad enough that any reliever has to come in early, whether it’s Haren or Carlos Frias or Jamey Wright, the Dodgers are in big trouble anyway.
If Ryu is fine, then this is a conversation we never need to have, and Haren maybe starts tomorrow (though it’s far from certain that Kershaw wouldn’t just take over anyway). Either way, I think we can all agree that if we see Haren tonight in any situation other than sitting on the bench, things have gone terribly, horribly wrong. It will, of course, have been Don Mattingly‘s fault.