Haren might make his next start. He might get his next start skipped while getting a chance to work on things during bullpen sessions. He might land on the disabled list.
One thing the Nationals do know is they can’t keep getting this type of result from Haren every fifth day.
The Nats have lost the last eight games that Haren has started. Had they gone 4-4 in those games, they’d be 41-33 and one game back of the Braves, instead of 37-37 and five back.
Some of those losses, of course, haven’t been Haren’s fault. He allowed two runs over seven innings in a 2-0 Nats loss to the Dodgers back on May 14. He struck out 10 and allowed three runs over six innings in a 5-3 Nats loss to the Phillies on May 25, and then allowed just two runs over 7 1/3 in another tough-luck loss to the Orioles his next time out.
But in those eight outings, Haren has a 7.01 ERA and a .910 OPS against. He’s gotten some bad luck this season, as evidenced by his .325 BAbip - batting average on balls in play - but has also left far too many pitches over the heart of the plate, resulting in a whopping 44 extra-base hits allowed.
Some of Haren’s numbers this season are downright confusing. He has a ridiculously high 5.15 strikeout-to-walk ratio - well above his career average of 4.04 and fifth-best in the majors behind Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee, Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez.
The ERAs of those four starters: 2.37, 2.53, 2.26 and 2.71. Haren’s ERA is 6.15.
Despite Haren’s lack of walks (just 13 all season), he’s still shown moments of wildness. Haren came into this year having hit more than six batters in a season just once. He’s already hit five batters in 82 innings and added six wild pitches.
Adam LaRoche has known Haren for a number of years now, and the two veterans played together with the Diamondbacks back in 2010. LaRoche has seen Haren at his best, and he seems just as perplexed by Haren’s numbers this season as the pitcher is himself.
“He’s still getting a lot of strikeouts,” LaRoche said. “He’s making guys look bad. A lot of the time it seems like any mistake, he’s getting hit over the fence. He’s given up quite a few homers, fortunately a lot of solo homers. He’s not walking anybody. I don’t know. It seems like bad luck right now. You can be that good, still strike out a bunch of guys, and any time you miss, it’s getting hit. I talked to him a little bit about it. I know he’s trying to find ways to be more consistent too, so I don’t know what it is.
“I think (he’s) more confused than anything, just trying to figure it out. He notices. He’ll throw some pitches, guys miss them by two feet, and then he turns around and gets one blasted. He’s kind of searching for it. Danny’s the same win or lose. I haven’t seen any change there. I know he’s just frustrated.”
If you’re wondering about other options the Nats have if they do decide to take Haren out of the rotation (be it for a start or the long-term,) there aren’t many.
Ross Ohlendorf is clearly the best choice at this point, both because of the success he’s had in his two appearances with the Nats and the fact that he’s now on the same throwing schedule as Haren. If the Nats decide to slide Ohlendorf into Haren’s spot in the rotation, he could throw a side session Monday or Tuesday and be ready to go Friday against the Mets, if things stay on schedule.
Moving Ohlendorf into the rotation for a start wouldn’t be a tough call. Deciding what to do with Haren in the bigger picture will be more difficult, especially given the fact that he’s making $13 million this season and has only made one relief appearance since 2004. That’s not a role in which Haren has any real experience.
The Nats are aware, however, something needs to change with the 32-year-old. The Nats need to either get him pitching at a more effective level or find another spot for him, because they can’t go into every fifth game with a loss hanging over their heads before a pitch has even been thrown.