Hernandez Signing a Bright Spot in Dim Offseason

Posted: December 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

fausto-carmona

 

If you’ve been paying any attention so far, you’d know that SkoodSports is no fan of Ruben Amaro’s actions this offseason. The overpriced signings of Carlos Ruiz and Marlon Byrd have put a damper on yet another wild offseason.

Heading into the winter meetings, it was clear that Amaro’s #1 goal, outside of dealing their high priced veterans for youth, was to acquire starting pitching. The Phillies’ rotation heading into Thursday morning consisted of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, and a few mysteries. One of those spots is now occupied by the newest Phillies RHP, Roberto Hernandez.

The 33-year old certainly won’t infuse the clubhouse with youthful vigor. But, he does bring talent to a rotation that is strong at the top and “Calista Flockhart” thin at the bottom. Prior to 2012, Hernandez was known as Fausto Carmona. He was also reportedly three years younger than he actually was. Once the revelation came out that Carmona was in fact a player by the name of Roberto Hernandez, the once valued pitcher became more of an afterthought in most baseball circles. 

Hernandez has always been a wildcard. In his spectacular first full season in the bigs, 2007, the then 26-year old went 19-8, 3.06 to help lead the Cleveland Indians to the ALCS. Since then, Hernandez has alternated strong and poor campaigns:

2007: 19-8, 3.06
2008: 8-7, 5.44
2009: 5-12, 6.32
2010: 13-14, 3.77
2011: 7-15, 5.25
2012: 0-3, 7.53
2013: 6-13, 4.89

Clearly, the statistics show that this signing is no world beater. Hernandez is unlikely to ever reach the echelon that many thought he would reach after 2007. Especially considering that we were all led to believe that he was only 23 at the time. But, his peripheral numbers and the move from the AL (where he has spent the entirety of his career) to the NL should propel Hernandez to a renaissance year in 2014. 

Hernandez is a ground ball pitcher (53.2% in 2013, 57.8% for his career) whose ERA ballooned in 2013 due in large part to an unsustainable 20.9% of flyballs that left the ballpark (HR/FB). His career average in this category is 12.5%. So, one could reasonably expect a rebound in Philadelphia, even if he is moving to a hitter’s park. 

Although I’m not a huge fan of sabermetrics, these statistics can often show you something that the traditional baseball numbers cannot. For Hernandez, a 3.60 xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching) and a 3.66 SIERA (Skill-Interactive ERA) in 2013 suggest that his 4.89 ERA should have been dramatically lower. Bad luck hit the right hander last year, after opposing batters did their share of hitting off of him in three of the prior four seasons. 

Hernandez is unlikely to recapture the moxie that made him a prized prospect in 2007. But, for $4.5 million on a one year deal, he is a much better investment than the ones made by the Minnesota Twins for Phil Hughes (3 years, $24 million) and Ricky Nolasco (4 years, $49 million) or the Royals for Jason Vargas (4 years, $32 million). 

What should you expect from Philadelphia’s #4 starter. In the traditional sense, one should prepare to see a pitcher who can win you 10+ games (assuming the offense is improved). His ERA should hover between 3.80 and 4.50, as well. For $4.5 million, these are bargains in today’s MLB economy. 

This may not be the splash that many wanted to see when the Winter Meetings began. But, it’s the move that Ruben Amaro needed. Hernandez will never again be a #1 or #2 starter. But, at the back end of the Philadelphia rotation, he should at the very least provide stability in a pitching staff that is rife with question marks. If nothing else, he couldn’t possibly be worse than John Lannan was in a similar role in 2013.

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