Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Profile: Livan Hernandez

Since Livan just won a silver slugger award yesterday for being the best hitting pitcher, I thought I would cover him next.

Livan is the little brother of Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. Except that he's not so little, at 6'2" and 245lbs. His weight is definitely a concern, particularly since he's somewhat out of shape, but not quite as bad as a Wells or Ponson. He's actually much younger than El Duque, turning 30 in February.

Hernandez is our ace, but looking at his 15 losses last year (2nd in the NL), one might think he might not be much of an ace, in the same way that Ponson and Colon didn't live up to expectations for good portions of the 2004 season. But, Hernandez actually had a very good season. His 3.60 ERA was 15th in the NL, was #1 in innings pitched (255) and complete games (9).
Two of those 9 games were shutouts. He threw an amazing average of 112.2 pitches per game.

Basically, his 15 losses are attributable primarily to the poor offense behind him. He went deep into games that could have easily been lost in the bullpen. In games he started, the Expos averaged 3.5 runs per game, and that included some blowout victories. It's perhaps more telling to mention that of his 35 starts, he held opponents to 3 or fewer runs in 21 of those games. On the Expos, this was good for an 11-15 record. On a heavy hitting team, he probably would have had right at or under 20 wins, and would have about half as many losses.

Let's look at some of his other numbers. His WHIP was a 1.24, less than the 1.40 league average, but not stellar, either. Hitters batted .248 against him, with left handed hitters batting .258 and right handers .238. There was a bigger difference in on-base percentage-- left handers had a .335, and right handers had a .287 (.311 overall). He gave up the long ball 26 times and struck out 6.57 batters per nine innings (2.24 Ks per walk).

Overall, Livan has a similar reputation to his brother. He doesn't have anywhere near the best stuff. His fastball tops out at 92mph. All of his other pitches (curve, slider, change up) are also nothing special. While he doesn't have the range of velocity his brother has, he probably has better location, and is just as smart on the mount and fiercely competitive.

His line in 2003 was pretty similar, if a slight bit better. I should also mention that the two years before that, while he played for SF, he had off years, but I haven't looked deeply enough to determine if there was some problem that's behind him, or if there could be some worry there.

All things considered, he's definitely a reputable front of the rotation, particularly with our meager payroll. We have to hope he remains resilient and gives us a similar season to the past two years, instead of pitching his way into Tommy John surgery, the way his brother did.

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