Chicago Cubs: Dan Haren hasn’t been the answer the team hoped for


Haren still looking to hit his stride with the Cubs

When the Chicago Cubs acquired Dan Haren from the Miami Marlins, the consensus was he would be an upgrade over the stable of pitchers the team had run out in the fifth spot this season. Travis Wood, Dallas Beeler, Tsuyoshi Wada and Clayton Richard are just a few of the names that Haren was supposed to be better than. So far he’s not answered the call but still remains the Cubs best option.

With Haren announcing this could be his final season, you have to wonder what the thinking of Joe Maddon would be if Haren continued to struggle. So far, Maddon still believes in the veteran to get the job done as the fifth starter.

"“I like Danny a lot,” Maddon said. “I really believe he’s going to be a big help to us down the stretch. He’s such a professional. I mean that, sincerely, I like this fella. You’ve got to love his attitude and how he goes about his business. h/t Vinnie Duber,"

Maddon may like him, and the Cubs are 2-2 in his starts so there’s no panic to this point. But the Cubs want more than the second Wild Card spot. They still have their eyes on the Central, and at just 6 1/2 games back that’s still a reachable goal. The Cardinals have scuffled while the Pirates keep winning at the same pace as the Cubs. Running Haren out there every fifth day and hoping he can make it five innings isn’t going to help this team’s playoff run.

Then again, when looking at his numbers and Maddon’s recent inclination to hook his starters early–it may not all fall on Haren that he’s only made it past the fifth one time. In a 3-1 loss to the White Sox, his three home runs allowed were all solo home runs. In his last outing against the Braves, he allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings, but the conditions were favoring the hitters as the two teams combined for 16 runs.

So should we be looking for the “next” fifth starter? Or is Haren a solid enough answer for a guy slotted in the fifth spot? The answer is the latter of the two. The Cubs knew they weren’t going to get seven innings per start out of him. He’s been a five to six inning guy, and that was going to be fine after the struggles the team has had from that spot this season. He does have the propensity to allow the long ball, but he’s managed to keep the damage fairly minimal.

His 6.05 ERA over his four starts doesn’t look like an improvement from the prior group, but that goes back to Maddon going to the pen early and often. He’s done it with Jason Hammel as well. Joe is managing to win games. Could Haren have worked out of jams? Possibly. But it’s about the team right now. As long as the Cubs are winning at a .500 clip in Haren’s starts, I believe you’ve got to stick with him.

Next: Rizzo leading the charge for the young Cubs