Astros Release Livan Hernandez, Braves Swoop In

In perhaps the fasteset set of transactions I’ve ever seen, the Astros announced that they were releasing Livan Hernandez at 12:07 pm eastern time, and then Jon Heyman reported that Livan was signing with the Braves at 2:02 pm eastern. Livan wasn’t even unemployed for two hours.

Livan’s a pretty fascinating guy. While his xFIPs are crazy consistent over the last four years (xFIP- of 112, 111, 114, 111), his results have swung wildly from awful in 2008-2009 (ERA- of 138 and 133) to pretty good in 2010 (ERA- of 91) back to not great (ERA- of 118) last year. On one hand, you know exactly what you’re getting with Livan – a durable innings eater who won’t miss bats. On the other hand, you have no idea what you’re going to get from Livan, as his BABIP and HR/FB rates have fluctuated wildly over the last five years.

This series of moves perfectly illustrates how a player can have value to one team but not another. The Braves needed to reduce their exposure to disaster performances, and signing Hernandez gives them some rotation depth and the ability to let Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado start the year in the minors. While he doesn’t do anything to help raise their upside in win total, he probably helps raise the downside slightly, as they now have a decent enough fifth starter to keep the team from imploding if the kids aren’t quite ready on Opening Day.

The Astros, though, have little need to reduce their volatility. The marginal value of a win to a team in their position is quite small, and as a pure rebuilding organization, they’re better off figuring out what they have in a guy like Kyle Weiland instead. The innings Livan would have pitched for Houston would have just reduced the number of chances the team would have had to evaluate their young arms, and so the value of having a veteran stop-gap in place simply wasn’t there.

It’s weird to see a contender pick up a guy that the worst team in baseball just decided they didn’t want, but in this case, it makes sense for both sides. Perhaps that’s why it all happened so fast.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

43 Responses to “Astros Release Livan Hernandez, Braves Swoop In”

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  1. TomahawkChopper says:

    In 1100 career PAs, he has accumulated 9.4 WAR. In

    Matt Diaz has 1900 career PAs and 6.0 WAR.

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  2. Jack says:

    Livan Hernandez has literally pitched 6 innings of four run baseball for every team in the majors.

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  3. Josh says:

    DOB saying Livan is going to the pen and has no effect on the 5th starter race.

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  4. adohaj says:

    Livan for HOF

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    • Brandon says:

      I didn’t know there was a Hall of Fat.

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      • Nats Fan says:

        Don’t be douche bag! Livan was the near the best pitchers in the game a decade ago. Nobody threw the innings he did. I believe if he has been willing to pitch merely 200 innings rather than 250-270 innings he could have been even more effective and truly dominated.

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  5. Ben says:

    Jamie Moyer scoffs at youngsters like Livan Hernandez who get by with their fancy fastballs and swinging strikes!

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    • mikesavino85 says:

      I am fervently hoping he makes the Rockies rotation. Seriously, if I was a baseball owner, Jamie Moyer would always be a starter. And Johnny Damon would play every day. It would be my personal mission to get mediocre players to hall of fame thresholds.

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  6. Dave S says:

    I wonder if the Phils follow suit, and scoop up Fontenot (just released by SF).

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  7. Nats Fan says:

    Livan is as close to a sure thing 1.5 WAR as a starting pitcher can be! He will easily pitch 180 innings. He never gets hurt. His FIP has been just below 4 the last two seasons. If his experience can help the pitchers around him, and I believe it can, then he is a very good 5th starter. Livan is a master of throwing worthless pitches and still keeping the hitters off balance. He is the best in the game of succeeding with zero stuff. He will always keep a game close. I have no doubt he will be offered several pitching coach positions the day he retires.

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  8. Blue says:

    As an aside, do you ever scroll up after a comment thread here, see an interesting story on the side, and click it just to find out it is just another worthless “Bleacher Report” article?

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  9. Eminor3rd says:

    Fun comments all around today

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  10. doffbhoya123 says:

    he’ll also serve as pinch hitter when chipper gets hurt.

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  11. Shane H says:

    The Braves rotation issues look alot like the 1B, OF, DH issue in ANGELS camp.

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  12. TomahawkChopper says:

    Can he play LF? Can’t be worse out there than that Hinske/Diaz combination.

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  13. Interested in how much Matt Cain is worth? Check out my blog at

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  14. steex says:

    I can’t help wondering if the Braves brought him in as much to work with Teheran and Delgado as to give them an insurance policy against them. Certainly they assume Hernandez will have additional value as a second pitching coach and mentor for their young Hispanic pitchers. Who better to help refine a couple guys with strong raw talent than a guy who has kept his career alive with smarts years after his stuff left him?

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    • jirish says:

      That is an excellent point-I have long thought when Livan’s pitching days are over that he is going to make a fine pitching coach. Anyone who continuously makes the adjustments to stay on the mound like he has, has got to know pitching. Until he retires, he can certainly serve the role as mentor.

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    • Richie says:

      Smart people can be awful teachers. It takes much more in the way of various emotional aptitudes than it does an ability to really figure things out for yourself.

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      • Jay29 says:

        Yeah, of course that is true. But it’s not as if anyone is saying “Livan is an experienced pitcher so he HAS to be a good pitching coach.” They’re saying that perhaps there is a reason for this signing other than eating up innings.

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  15. Walter Zink says:

    this is a brilliant article. thank you for your work.

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