Nationals Baseball: The strange case of Livan Hernandez

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The strange case of Livan Hernandez

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.


Hoo said...

I'm surprised Livo is still a Nat.

You sign him next year? Where does Livo fit in the 2011 picture?

I always get a kick out of watching that 62 mph bender.

Harper said...

A lot depends on how Olsen, ZNN, Wang, Detwiler, Marquis, & Lannan look these next two months. I think if the Nats aren't 95% sure on at least 3 of them they should resign Livan. If they are sure - then you almost have to let him go because I don't see how he would fit.

Hoo said...

Nats might keep Livo around to help tutor Yuneksy Maya next spring.

I'd count on Maya before Wang and Lannan. He seems to be a pretty solid signing in the "Win Now" category.

If Maya pans out then it could be a huge lefty battle royale for the #5 spot between Det, Lannan and Olsen.

bdrube said...

Do you keep him around next year? Of course you do. First reason is to mentor Maya on pitching in the bigs. Next there is the fact that he's a fan favorite. Next is the fact that he has said he WANTS to pitch here. Lastly there is the fact that he'll give you 200+ innings and 33 starts until his arm falls off. How many more pigs in a poke do we have to buy before we realize that we've got what we need right under our noses?

If Livan is even close to the actual age listed on his bio, he may be solid starting pitcher for years yet (think Jamie Moyer). I hope other teams remain blind as to his real value.

Harper said...

Hoo : I'm not counting on Maya until I can see him pitch. Everything we've heard has been good but best case we're still talking about a 29 yr old pitcher with a lot of wear and tear on the arm.

bdrube - ok two questions then :

(1) Assuming Strasburg and ZNN are ok and in the rotation, what do you do with the two rotation spots if you keep Livan? Marquis pretty much has to be in the rotation. Detwiler could go to AAA but most people think he belongs in the majors if healthy. Maya probably doesn't belong in the minors either. Lannan was the holder of the innings eating starter role that you want for Livan and he's a 25 yr old lefty. And Olsen has looked better than any of these in the majors this year. Who do you keep down / deal / etc?

(2) This Livan year was a complete surprise. 200IP and 33 starts I'd say is guaranteed, but of below 4.00 ERA ball? If he's giving the Nats 4.80+ ERA ball (as he did from 2006-2009) then I don't know if that's worth taking up that "audition" spot just for bad innings.

I guess the 2nd question is answered before the first. You like Livan and figure out how to fit him in. Or you think he's a fluke and it's not an issue.
(I think it's somewhere in between and he totally should have been traded but that's me)

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

The "bad Livo" has not been as bad as as he was last year. As. for luck, you make your own in baseball, and while it may show up in the minds of the "New Statisticians", it doe not show up in th W/L column or scoreboard. I will make up my mind about Marquis after he has won a few starts this month and next. My memory of his April-May still burns in my mind.

Hoo said...

Nats don't even know what to do this Sept.
Nats Journal just released the future of Maya (likely MLB by Sept), Znn (up in Sept), Marquis (up quickly and replacing....Lannan or Stammen right?)

Sept rotation:
Znn at a 5 IP limit, Det, Olsen, Marquis, Maya, Livo. (Is Livo a Nat when Maya/ZNN are up? He needs to be traded this year!)

Out: Lannen, Stammen, SS.

Michael J. Hayde said...

When MASN showed the footage of Livo celebrating the Diamondbacks' World Series win, you could see a roll of fat between the back of his head and his neck. That's gone now. He's in much better physical shape than he's been in years (thank you, racquetball), and it's translated to better, more consistent pitching performances. Some old dogs CAN learn new tricks.

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