I'm not sure I fully got how good a year Livan was having until yesterday. Early on, sure he was doing fantastic, carrying an ERA just over 1.00 after 6 starts. That was the product of some crazy luck though, with a crazy low BABIP (.181) that got past ridiculous and into mouth agape, "that just can't be" range when it came to hitting with men on base. We figured it would come to an end and it did.
But it came slower than we thought. He didn't blow up in his next 6 games, in fact he wound up pitching better, statistically at least. His BB:K went from a poor 14:14 in the first 6 games to a decent 11:19 and he actually gave up one less HR. Even though the hits were starting to go through (.313 BABIP) he still put up a 3.79 ERA of innings filling goodness, better than any ERA he had for a season since 2004.
Over games #13-#18, we finally thought we had the "real" Livan back. The guy mixed a couple of gems in with a couple terrible outings, reminding us of the sporadic pitching we associate with Livan (well at least I do in my head). Thing is these 6 games were like the Bizarro version of his first 6. As much as he was a pretty bad pitcher getting all the breaks then, now he was a pretty good one getting none of them. He continued to improve. He had 11 walks matched up with 26 strikeouts, only gave up 2 home runs and more impressively only 5 other XBH. His BABIP though went way up to .357 and it seems likely that his BABIP with RISP went higher than that (though maybe not - that's a time intensive check people - cut me some slack). He was only giving up singles but they came more often than they should and in bunches. His improvement was lost on me.
Now though things have evened out again. His last 4 games have been stellar (2.07 ERA) and his pitching has remained top notch. Only 5 walks to 19 strikeouts, no home runs and only 3 doubles, a BABIP at .268 that's low but not unsustainable. Sure his numbers for the season still look lucky (ERA 3.12 to an xFIP 4.58) that's mostly the remains of that incredibly lucky start. Since then his ERA and xFIP look to be more in line. He's pulling out his best K/BB rate since 2004 and his best full season HR rate ever.
Livan, a guy who had to beg for a job in the Spring, has slowly and steadily improved along the season into a solid top of the rotation pitcher. It's been a bit hard to see as luck has bounced all around him but it's true. He's no longer the "luckiest man alive". He's a good pitcher again for the first time in years.