I don’t completely want to toot my own horn here, but we’ve been talking about what a good idea it would be to give Charlie Haeger a start for a month now (including here, here, and here). And when he finally does, as the 10th Dodger to make a start this year, what do we get? An incredibly solid start of seven innnings and what amounts to two runs allowed.*
* This is not a typo. Big deal, he gave up a homer to Albert Pujols. Pujols isn’t human. That homer wasn’t knuckleball-related; that was Pujols being one of the 10 best players to ever live. Albert Pujols: good at baseball.
Remember, seven innings and three runs allowed is a pretty decent outing for most pitchers, but keep in mind that Haeger doesn’t have to be “most” pitchers. He’s just the latest contestant on “Who Wants to Be A Fifth Starter?”, and as such you’re not expecting an eight-inning shutout like you might hope for from an “ace”. You’re hoping for a guy who can keep you in the game and eat up enough innings to not have to make the bullpen throw seven, and Haeger did that and more.
No, it’s not lost on me that the Dodgers fell to the Cardinals, as the offense continued to struggle. I just think you have to think big picture here, because even as they lost a game they may have gained someone who can – as I’ve been saying for weeks – really contribute a solid amount of decent innings. Besides, it’s hardly an embarrassment to get shut down by Chris Carpenter, who’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball for a long time now. Though, seriously guys – what’s with both Ethier and Manny swinging at the first pitch in the 9th? At least Casey Blake gave it a ride.
Of all the things to point to about Haeger’s outing that were really impressive, the one that really stands out to me is the number zero. That’d be the number of walks he allowed, and with that thing dipping and dancing as a knuckleball does, the fact that he can keep it in the zone so consistently is noteworthy. Actually, this shouldn’t come as a complete surprise; Dodger farmhand Brian Akins has a blog he’s been updating chronicling his recovery from Tommy John surgery. In addition to being a surprisingly interesting daily read, Akins has this to say about Haeger:
A great deal of baseball players (pitchers and position players alike)
secretly think that they might be able to make it as a knuckleballer.
If you fall into this category, I have something to tell you: you
can’t. I’ll fool around with a knuckleball on occasion and will
typically throw about 3 out of 10 well. I have to admit that this was
enough to make me think I might have a chance. I played catch with
Haeger this spring and he threw about 100 out of 100 well. It was,
without a doubt, the most nerve-racking game of catch I have ever
The best part is, Haeger really could have kept going, as he was only approaching 90 pitches. On the other hand, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to face Hong-Chih Kuo throwing heat from the left side immediately after floaters from the right side.
So what’s this mean – Haeger for Cy Young? Well, no. Not quite. But you figure that has to at least earned him another start, especially with Hiroki Kuroda out of the rotation the next time through, and hopefully allows him to stake a claim on the 5th spot going forward.
Thanks for backing up our support, Charlie.