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Extras on Livan Hernandez's hot start

Livan Hernandez has joined the league's elite starters just months after he couldn't find a job. He finished last season with the Nationals, whom he joined only after the Mets waived him in late August. At year's end, over the past two seasons, Hernandez owned a 5.74 ERA and had twice been released.

A few of teams showed interest in Hernandez, but only in giving him a minor league contract and a spring training tryout, same as 2009. Hernandez watched journeymen land in starting rotations, pitchers who, Hernandez believed, were not as good or as durable as him. He never again wants to experience that sting again.

"It's no fun," Hernandez said. "It's too intense for the mind. It's too much stress. I see worse pitchers than me still pitching in the league. I say, 'Why do I got that stress?' You see all that, and sometimes I get frustrated. I never miss a start in my career. I pitch every five days. I throw 200 innings in a year. And still I had a hard time finding a job. It's not easy when you're staying home, waiting and waiting and waiting. You see people signing, and you know you would do a better job than them. You say, 'Wow.' "

A lot of those teams who passed are saying, "Ouch." Hernandez has a 0.87 ERA, having allowed three runs in four starts. Some advanced metrics suggest his start has owed partly to good fortune. Opposing hitters have hit just .180 on balls put in play, lowest in the league and remarkably lucky. Hernandez's Fielding Independent Pitching - a measure of what an ERA would be if not for factors outside of what happens with the pitcher and the hitter - is 5.05. The 3.21 difference between his FIP and ERA is the highest in the majors.

Maybe Hernandez has been fortunate, but the bottom line is he's been great and, one month into the year, he's proving he can again be a front-line starter. This offseason, when the league doubted that, one thing helped Hernandez absorb the hurt.

"I'm playing golf," Hernandez said, "and my frustrations go away." Golf Digest ranked Hernandez, a scratch player, as the sixth-best golfer in sports outside the PGA Tour. He figures if he can concentrate on golf, with a coach, for year, he'll be able to compete on the Champions Tour by his 50th birthday. "It would be nice," Hernandez said. "The first Cuban guy on the tour."

FROM THE POST

The full bird-cage liner story on Livan Hernandez's remarkable start to the season.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Toledo 3, Syracuse 2: The Sky Chiefs lost when Josh Wilkie walked in the winning run in the ninth. Jeff Mandel, in his first start since a promotion from Harrisburg, allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings on three walks and four hits while striking out two. Ron Villone walked one in two-thirds of an inning.

Harrisburg was off.

Potomac 5, Myrtle Beach 4 (10 innings): Michael Burgess went 2 for 4 with a double and a home run.

Hagerstown 6, Augusta 4: Daniel Rosenbaum allowed two runs in six innings on six hits and no walks while striking out five. J.P. Ramirez went 1 for 4 with a home run.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

Ivan Rodriguez chats about his season and a looming milestone with MLB.com.

Nats Insider looks at how the Nationals perceive the attitude questions surrounding potential No. 1 pick Bryce Harper.

Goessling Game takes a look back at Wednesday's Nats win.

With Matt Capps leading the league in saves, the Pirates may be regretting letting him walk away.

By Adam Kilgore  |  April 30, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Livan Hernandez  
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Next: Nationals shuffle starters

Comments

So that 5.05 number reflects the better fielding the players behind Livo are executing, right?

Posted by: Juan-John | April 30, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

You show 'em, Livo!

Executive summary of the Capps piece: The Pirates are cheap. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 30, 2010 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Those FIP numbers are worrisome. What's Livan's career difference in ERA and FIP? What was in 2003, his career year?

Posted by: Tank2 | April 30, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Adam Kilgore said...Opposing hitters have hit just .180 on balls put in play, lowest in the league and remarkably lucky.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Remarkably lucky? I haven't seen anything I would say is lucky. Livo is hitting his spots and deceiving the hitters. He is keeping them off balance and the fielding behind him has been great.

I am just hoping what YOU call remarkable luck continues!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | April 30, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

There's a variety of research that suggests that pitchers don't have a ton of control over whether a batted ball turns into an out (that's an oversimplification, but it'll do for quick posting purposes!) So, if opposing hitters are hitting just .180 on balls in play, yeah - that's luck. And it's probably going to stop, and Livan will regress to his mean.

BUT - the great news is, those terrific starts by Livan and the wins that accompanied them are in the books, and can't be taken away, regression or no. I'm thrilled for Livan, and it's been exciting to watch. Just don't expect it to last all season...

Posted by: Section220 | April 30, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

I don't think anybody expects Livo to keep up with his 0.87 ERA, luck or no luck. He will give up, at some point, more than one or two runs in a start. He will probably even get rocked once or twice. But hopefully what he can continue to do is be a mentor to the younger guys, stop a losing streak in its tracks, or go seven or eight innings when the bullpen needs a break. We don't need him to be Walter Johnson, Sandy Koufax, or Tim Lincecum, we just need him to keep being Livo.

Go Nats!!! Hook the Fish!!!

Posted by: SpashCity | April 30, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Anyone read the Pittsburgh post? What's with the "Great Bullrider" nickname for Capps? I tried to ask on thier Blog but one cannot register due to temporary security issues.

Livan, on past history, is due for a bad start. But I thought it was going to occurr early. Hopefully, it is a new Livo and the 1-2 bad starts out of 5 is a thing of the past.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | April 30, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Just a minor quibble, because I really appreciate this morning round-up every day. My question is based on this paragraph:

"A lot of those teams who passed are saying, "Ouch." Hernandez has a 0.87 ERA, having allowed three runs in four starts. Some advanced metrics suggest his start has owed partly to good fortune. Opposing hitters have hit just .180 on balls put in play, lowest in the league and remarkably lucky. Hernandez's Fielding Independent Pitching - a measure of what an ERA would be if not for factors outside of what happens with the pitcher and the hitter - is 5.05. The 3.21 difference between his FIP and ERA is the highest in the majors."
___________________________________

The question is: if Livo's ERA is 0.87, and his FIP is 5.05, how is there a 3.21 difference between the two? Does he really have a FIP of 4.08 (still pretty solid), or is the difference between his ERA and FIP actually 4.18 (making him even luckier)?

Posted by: faNATic | April 30, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

In case you all are interested, here are two articles on how Livan's start has compared with Nats pitchers in the past

http://nationalsreview.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/livan-making-nats-history/

and how it's compared with starts of Expos' pitchers

http://nationalsreview.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/livans-start-compared-to-expos-days/

Posted by: CharlieF | April 30, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Don't see any of the "Don't resign Livo" folks writing in :)

Posted by: fearturtle44 | April 30, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sold on stats like BABAP and FIP, because pitchers do have some control over balls in play. Like an earlier poster said, when Livo is hitting the corners like he's done so masterfully so far this year, he'll induce a lot of slow rollers and lazy fly balls. Of course his ERA will somewhat regress towards the mean as the year goes on, but he'll be effective as long as his control holds out.

Posted by: InTheCheapSeats | April 30, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Don't see any of the "Don't resign Livo" folks writing in :)

Posted by: fearturtle44

Ain't that the truth! Those same people live to critique Nats management. Yeah, that Nats amangement, the baseball people who have built the team that has a winning record and is playing great ball. Go Nats!

Posted by: fpcsteve | April 30, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Don't re-sign Livo folk writing in here! (I'm assuming that's different than fearturtle, a "don't resign, Livo!" folk)


Hernandez asks "I see worse pitchers than me still pitching in the league. I say, 'Why do I got that stress?'"

Because they throw 93 or 94, Livan, and you top out at 88 or 89 on a good day. And when your breaking stuff doesn't break, it goes over the wall. Which is why I opposed your signing, despite my intense fondness for you. But I am happy I have been wrong about that so far, and hope I continue to be.

Posted by: Section506 | April 30, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

"Ain't that the truth! Those same people live to critique Nats management. Yeah, that Nats amangement, the baseball people who have built the team that has a winning record and is playing great ball."

Man, the amount of heat I took for standing up for management and the building of a good ball team. Don't parade around the room in triumph either, it's only April. Remember the 2005 Nationals.

Seriously, there are legitimate reasons for not thinking Livan was a good move, even if it isn't born out. The entire game is all about the management of risk. The goal is to be right more than your wrong, not to be right all the time. Sheesh.

Posted by: Section506 | April 30, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

"Ain't that the truth! Those same people live to critique Nats management. Yeah, that Nats amangement, the baseball people who have built the team that has a winning record and is playing great ball."

Man, the amount of heat I took for standing up for management and the building of a good ball team. Don't parade around the room in triumph either, it's only April. Remember the 2005 Nationals.

Seriously, there are legitimate reasons for not thinking Livan was a good move, even if it isn't born out. The entire game is all about the management of risk. The goal is to be right more than you're wrong, not to be right all the time. Sheesh.

Posted by: Section506 | April 30, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Well, at least the second time spelled "you're" correctly.

Posted by: Section506 | April 30, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

For me, the goal is to enjoy the game and rooting for the Nats. Theere is more than enough misery in this world without ginning up more on purpose. It's a game. Take a break and enjoy it.

Posted by: fpcsteve | April 30, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

MPH means nothing lots of guys can hit 95 on the gun it is being able to locate those pitches consistently, which is what Livo does, I think Livo has another 5 years as a quality starter left in him.

Posted by: markfd | April 30, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

"I see worse pitchers than me still pitching in the league. I say, 'Why do I got that stress?'"

"We don't got too many dreams in Cuba," he said.

Adam,

How come you are not cleaning up the grammar in your quotes of Latin players? I've noticed this before in your writing, but these quotes from Livan prompted me to raise it today. Are you not allowed to clean it up and put words in brackets? It seems to me like you are embarrassing these guys, when English is not their native language. As I understand it, this kind of thing was one of the reasons why the Mets' Latin players weren't talking to the media post-game a few seasons ago, which led to many of their problems in the clubhouse.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | April 30, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I'm one of those who has had a soft spot for Livo ever since that first year. I was happy they re-signed him, and am even happier that he is doing so well. Ya just gotta love a guy like Livo. No, he cannot keep that ERA all season, and a blow up is going to happen sometime, but he has been magnificent thus far. Thanks for the extra info in the journal as well as the nice above the fold with a picture story in the hard copy edition.

I am also one of those who has complained of cheap ownership, and I still do (have we re-signed Dunn yet??!). And I know it is very early in a long season. Still, you have to give management props for doing what they have done with the money they were given.

Fish for dinner!

Posted by: NatsFly | April 30, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I am also one of those who has complained of cheap ownership, and I still do (have we re-signed Dunn yet??!). And I know it is very early in a long season. Still, you have to give management props for doing what they have done with the money they were given.

Fish for dinner!

Posted by: NatsFly

Exactly! There is no point in complaining. How does that change anything? Management has done the best it can with what it has. They do deserve credit. We're having fun. That's the point. Fish for dinner indeed!

Posted by: fpcsteve | April 30, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

CIL: there was a bit of a controversy a couple of years ago within WaPo about cleaning up athletes' grammar when they stopped doing that. It was alleged that they were embarrassing a certain local running back whose grammar is notoriously non-standard. They decided to print it as it was said which is, after all, their job. That said, I don't find this embarrassing at all to Livo. This is his second language, and he communicates a heck of a lot better in English than I can in Spanish, so good for him. He pitches, he hits, he speaks Spanish and he speaks English well enough to be understood. I can do only one of those things!

Posted by: NatsFly | April 30, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

NatsFly: You can pitch?

Posted by: BinM | April 30, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

"He figures if he can concentrate on golf, with a coach, for year, he'll be able to compete on the Champions Tour by his 50th birthday"

So, what, he'll quit baseball after this season so he can attain this dream before his 50th next year?

While it's almost a certainty that Livo will get rocked in one of his upcoming starts ('tho I hope I'm wrong), you just have to sit back and really enjoy this run he's been on so far this year. While I don't expect Livo to end the season in a Nats uniform, I will totally be rooting for him each every time he takes the mound.

Posted by: erocks33 | April 30, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Shouldn't Kevin be more concerned with Adam's problems with grammar than he is with Livan's? Livan gets paid to pitch, Adam's the one paid to sling words.

Posted by: AnnOminousOne | April 30, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Let's not leave out another benefit of Livo: I recall Scott Olson (I think) saying that his pitched well on his third try because of tips from Livo. Among other things: a reminder that rearing back to get a bit more on the radar gun isn't worth it if you lose a bit on location.

Whatever -- Olson benefited and pitched brilliantly his last time out, compared to his two other games where he blew up.

So, Livo is not only responsible for three wins, but possibly partially a fourth, and more, if he helped straighten out Olson.

Not something that shows up in the box scores!

A guy that tops out at 85mph but still pitches well and can get guys out on 62mph curves is an artist.

Posted by: ADCWonk | April 30, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

"MPH means nothing lots of guys can hit 95 on the gun it is being able to locate those pitches consistently"

I know that, and you know that, but let's not be naive - MLB is obsessed with the speedometer. As to hitting his spots, when Livan does that he is the best. But we watched too many games in the second half of 2005 and in 2006 to pretend that he doesn't sometimes have problems with that. And when he does it is ugly.

Let's not make Hernandez out to be a greater pitcher than he is in the process of trying to make sure others don't make him out to be a worse pitcher than he is.

Posted by: Section506 | April 30, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

I'm somewhat confused by the desire to have quotes "fixed" for print (I'm not even going to get into the whole language is fluid and not set in stone so you'd better get used to that fact and not cling to potentially antiquated rules of usage, meaning and grammar - Shakespeare (or Shakespeare or Shakespere or Shakespear or Shakspeare or Shackspeare...) was the greatest writer, we should stick with that version or English, right?), what are you supposed to do for broadcast... dub them?

Posted by: OldDude | April 30, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Now use "borne" appropriately and we'll be in great shape. ;-)

---

Well, at least the second time spelled "you're" correctly.

Posted by: Section506 | April 30, 2010 10:01 AM |

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 30, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

DCWonk, a good point, but I believe it was Stammen rather than Olsen that Livo counseled in that case.

And this: "what are you supposed to do for broadcast... dub them?" combined with the Shakespeare reference made me think of knighthood ceremonies ("I dub thee 'Sir Livo'"). Although I did take your meaning.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 30, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

As Periculum might say, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" trans: Who will clean up after the janitors?

***********
Shouldn't Kevin be more concerned with Adam's problems with grammar than he is with Livan's? Livan gets paid to pitch, Adam's the one paid to sling words.
Posted by: AnnOminousOne | April 30, 2010 11:03 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 30, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I think everybody knows how Livan talks. He conveys his thoughts with great clarity. There is nothing to be ashamed of coming to a foreign country, being successful and not knowing the language.

Posted by: markfromark | April 30, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

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