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Livan Hernandez, Craig Stammen, and new fathers

Tomorrow, probably right around sunrise, Livan Hernandez will roll into Nats camp, and having seen this act before (he joined the Nats under similar circumstances in late August 2009), I'm already assuming how this will look. Some guys, they even walk like big leaguers. Livo will be wearing 10 pounds of jewelry; he'll fill his clubhouse locker with high-end-luggage; he'll banter with teammates free and loose. He'll be the new guy, but he'll look like he belongs. Livo is one of those guys who might be fighting for a job, but with his actions he'll look like he already has it.

I'm sorry, I can't envision a scenario in which Livo doesn't open the season in Washington's rotation. Manager Jim Riggleman on Thursday morning described his newest 35-year-old pitcher as somebody who can "eat up innings." Somebody who is "durable" and "throws strikes" and acts like "a pro." Those other pitchers vying for the last rotation spots "don't have a lot of experience," Riggleman said.

We can see where this is going.

So let me offer some numbers that show Livan's value.

* Hernandez had a 5.44 ERA in 2009, but that undersells his worth. Most pitchers with ERAs in the 5.00s are steadily sub-ordinary; Hernandez, though, tends to have quality starts for two or three outings, then getting shelled in the fourth. For teams that don't mind the occasional stinker, this is a good trade-off.

* Consider this: In 2009, Hernandez had 18 quality starts, 41st in baseball. He had one less than John Lannan (3.88 ERA), and had the same number as Scott Feldman (4.08), Kevin Millwood (3.67) and Ross Ohlendorf (3.92).

* (Strange stat, I know. And it hardly makes a case for excellence. But it does aptly describe Livo's odd value.) Last season, Hernandez and Carl Pavano were the only two pitchers in baseball with 16+ quality starts and ERAs over 5.00

* And here's my favorite stat: Over the last 50 years (1959-2009), Livan Hernandez has the HIGHEST career ERA among pitchers with 200 or more quality starts. Livo, by the way, has 222. Here's the list.

Livan Hernandez - 4.45
Mike Moore - 4.39
Steve Trachsel - 4.39
Tim Wakefield - 4.33
John Burkett - 4.31

* A few other morning items that I'll probably expand on in my notebook. Jim Riggleman said today that he can envision Craig Stammen as a long reliever in the bullpen. Whether that change comes this year, who knows, but Riggleman said that Stammen is the only guy among contenders for the 4/5 rotation spots who might switch roles. Also, Riggleman said that Scott Olsen, if healthy, is a lock for the rotation.

* Cristian Guzman's wife is expecting a baby any day now, so the shortstop is not currently in camp. He was, however, in Viera earlier this week. Josh Willingham hasn't yet reported, because two nights ago his wife gave birth to Ryder Jon Willingham, 22 inches, an even eight pounds. Elijah Dukes (the other position player I hadn't spotted, as of yesterday) has indeed reported to camp.

By Chico Harlan  |  February 25, 2010; 10:42 AM ET
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Next: Update on the Dominican Republic, post-Smiley


"Most pitchers with ERAs in the 5.00s are steadily sub-ordinary; Hernandez, though, tends to have quality starts for two or three outings, then getting shelled in the fourth. For teams that don't mind the occasional stinker, this is a good trade-off."

As I said yesterday, a steady diet of quality starts (6 IP with 3 or fewer earned runs is a quality start by definition) gets you a 4.50 ERA. Albeit that is the max it gets you, because if your quality start is fewer than three runs the ERA will be less. But for Livo to have as high an ERA overall as he does and still have so many quality starts, he's giving up three or more runs every single night. And as I also said yesterday, to win a Livo start you're either going to have to get a perfect night from your bullpen (and defense, since unearned runs count too) or score five or more runs. Or both. So I fail to see what the benefit is of Livo eating so many innings, if he's handing back runs at that rate. Of all pitchers in baseball who ate as many innings as Livo did last year, his ERA was the worst. So if it's an innings eater they wanted, they just signed the worst one out there.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 25, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Because, as has been demonstrated by Bill James, those pitchers with quality starts actually have ERAs way below 4.5 in those starts.

Posted by: swang30 | February 25, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Can Balester PLEASE get rid of that awful mustach

Posted by: Nats1924 | February 25, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

I would be fine with Stammen taking a long relief role if he dosent fit into the rotation. I think Tyler Clippard had an incredible season last year when he pitched. Often it was in long relief situations. But Clippard looks like he could be a real force in the future. I would like to see him in more single inning roles later in the game. Work him up to be the eventual set up guy maybe future closer. For me he was as impressive as any of our younger players, and he made it though the whole year.

Posted by: Stu27 | February 25, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

In Bill Ladson's most recent chat with Kasten, Kasten says they recently made some international signings:

"We made some signings that we haven't released yet. We are going to release it the next few days, including one who could join the big league team this year -- a little bit of an older player."

Another pitcher perhaps? A slick-fielding middle infielder to give some competition to Alberto Gonzalez?

Posted by: SpashCity | February 25, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

With Jesus, Zimmerman, Lannan, Wang and Marquis a lock for next years starting rotation. I have a feeling Stamin, Mock, Bergmann, Chico and the other baby Nats will have no place to go. Getting traded, toiling in AAA, on being part of the big league Pen will be thier only options.

Posted by: hansenjo | February 25, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Can Balester PLEASE get rid of that awful mustach

Posted by: Nats1924 | February 25, 2010 11:33 AM

How can you take this guy seriously with his porn star moustache. This isn't retro '70s party.

Ballestar can do his tweeting and blogging and become a journalist.

Not impressed with a guy that finds it all to be a joke and grab attention on everything else except what his 2 seam fastball is really doing.

Advice to Ballestar, screw your head on the right way or you will look back on this in 20 years as a missed opportunity.

I know 15 other teams that would have sent him packing back to the Minors already.

Posted by: dmacman88 | February 25, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

"He had one *less* than John Lannan"


Posted by: NatsNut | February 25, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

dmacman88 - very well said. he gets on my nerves

i liked him at the begining....but come'on bro.


Posted by: Nats1924 | February 25, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Here's a scenario where Livo doesn't make the rotation:

Chico is big issue because he's out of options. So, if he has a good spring, he won't clear waivers and will have to stay on the 25 man and therefore in the rotation. Actually, that 5 is my pick the rotation entry. Guess it's early. I think Stammen will be decent again and that Olsen will be healthy enough to go north. I also think those 5 give us an average rotation which is a massive upgrade from last year.

Posted by: Avar | February 25, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

If Chico has a good spring, and Olsen is healthy and Wang seems to be progressing well toward starting in May or June, maybe a trade would be in everybody's best interests. A lefty starter with a gritty rep has to be worth something.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 25, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Not so "Nu?" post.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 25, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Congrats to the new Nats Daddies!

Posted by: Juan-John1 | February 25, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

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