Dr. HQ: Haren and Matthews
Dontrelle Willis, SP, Marlins: In June, Willis had a bout of stiffness in his pitching forearm but was able to avoid the DL, having only one start pushed back a couple of days. Other than that, there have been no public reports of him having any physical problems that would help explain his horrible season. Digging deeper into his numbers, we do find a couple of trends, though. His K/9 rate has remained steady the past four years, between the current 6.3 to the 6.5 mark he had back in 2005. While his strikeout rate has remained stable, he is now using 17 pitches per inning, which is more than normal for him. He also has allowed 41 more hits than innings pitched and a career-high 27 homers, and opposing batters are hitting .304 against him. I'm betting that sometime over the winter or in the spring we'll read a story about Willis having back, elbow or shoulder issues that contributed to his problems in 2007.
Dan Haren, SP, Athletics: At the All-Star break, Haren was one of the top candidates for the AL Cy Young Award. His ERA was 2.30, opposing batters were hitting just .205 against him and his K/9 rate was 7.0. He clearly was a dominant starter. Then he posted a 4.10 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in July, his August numbers were similar, and September has been a total collapse (7.27 ERA and 2.31 WHIP). A detailed look at his outings does not provide a clear-cut reason for his struggles, in that he does not have one outing or a series of outings with high pitch counts that might explain shoulder fatigue or injury problems. A look back at 2006 revealed a similar but less dramatic second-half decline. His first-half ERA was 3.53 (1.13 WHIP), and after the break it ballooned to 4.91 (1.31 WHIP). So for the second year in a row, we have a noticeable post-break decline.