Haren a model of consistency, and health

Haren a model of consistency, and health

Haren a model of consistency, and health
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- In an era obsessed with pitch counts and innings limits, Angels co-ace Dan Haren is a dinosaur, a throwback to the days when starting pitchers threw a lot and didn't miss starts.

Oddly enough, one of Haren's signature pitches -- the cutter -- is one of the most historically problematic for a pitcher's arm. But in nine years as a pro, Haren has never missed a start. Ever.

"Hey, I have aches and pains just like everybody else," said Haren, who hurled two no-hit innings in his spring debut against the Indians on Thursday. "I would be lying if I said I felt great every time out. There's always something. But that's just part of it."

You can make a very good case for Haren being baseball's most consistent pitcher over the last seven years.

Since 2005, Haren ranks first in the Majors in starts (237) and quality starts (163), and is second behind only the Yankees' CC Sabathia in innings (1,581 1/3) and strikeouts (1,368). His seven consecutive seasons of 215-plus innings is the longest active streak in the Majors, and he is just one of three current pitchers -- along with Sabathia and the Phillies' Roy Halladay -- to post seven straight 12-plus-win seasons.

He may not be Cy Young or Walter Johnson in terms of workload, but in this era, Haren may be about as close as you can get.

"Super impressive," new rotation mate C.J. Wilson said.

Despite the heavy usage, Haren has managed to be tied for fifth in the Majors in WHIP (1.15), 15th in ERA (3.49) and tied for 20th in opponents' batting average (.248) during that seven-year span. Last season, his first full one with the Angels, the 31-year-old went 16-10 with a 3.17 ERA while tying for the Major League lead in starts (34), leading the American League in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.82) and ranking third in innings (238 1/3).

"He's very strong, he works hard at it, he understands his mechanics," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who saw Haren walk one and strike out three while throwing mostly fastballs and cutters in an eventual 6-5 win on Thursday. "He's been able to go out there and not only grind it out, but gives you great innings for a whole season, giving you a chance to win virtually every time he takes the mound. There's no secret -- he works very hard and is blessed to understand the mechanics."

Yes, Haren works hard. But a lot of pitchers work hard. What makes him so successful and consistent and durable -- besides the necessary luck required to avoid the freak injury -- is execution.

He has a nice-and-easy delivery that's simple to repeat.

He constantly pitches low in the zone -- the only thing former Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan stressed to Haren during his early days in '03 and '04.

And he works very well with what he has.

"There's so many guys who can throw 100 mph nowadays, but there's just more to it," Haren said. "You see guys throwing 100 getting hit around all over the place. It's about locating."

Haren's velocity has dipped through the years. He was at 92-93 mph just four years ago, with the ability to run it up to the mid-90s when he needed to. These days, Haren feels good if he's sitting at around 88-89 mph because, as he said, "I feel like my command is better now than it ever has been.

"When I'm out there, I'm not going 100 percent every pitch. It depends on the situation. Today I got a guy on base, maybe had to add a little bit more. But for the most part, there's no need for me to go 100 percent at all times. I'm not throwing 95 mph anymore. My game is location and it's control and keeping hitters off balance. It's not throwing a 97 mph fastball by a guy. I just can't do it anymore."

Haren gets outs mostly by relying on his fastball and several different versions of a cutter -- a pitch he has used more and more as the years go by, and a pitch everyone in baseball is seemingly trying to master these days. He started toying with it every offseason beginning in '05, brought it out in very rare occasions in '07 and '08, then began using it more heavily in '09 -- from 23.3 percent of the time that year, to 27.2 percent in 2010 to a career-high 47.7 percent last season, according to FanGraphs.com.

And if it one day causes an arm injury?

"Hey, if it's going to happen, it's going to happen," said Haren, whom the Angels owe $12.75 million in 2012 with a club option for 2013. "I can't go out there thinking I don't want to get hurt. I've prepared myself before and after the starts, and whatever happens, happens."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.