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Livan Hernandez’s Crazy Streak

Since 1998, three things have been constant: death, taxes, and Livan Hernandez starting at least 30 Major League Baseball games. Hernandez, despite bouncing between eight teams in these 12 seasons, is the only pitcher to accomplish this rather daunting feat. It appears that Hernandez will get a chance to continue his wondrous streak in 2010, as the Nationals have added him on a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training and a shot at a starting rotation slot.

This move isn’t terribly interesting, but I find Hernandez’s streak to be fascinating. We’ve seen so many hall of fame quality pitchers in the major leagues since 1998, and the one pitcher that has managed to combine durability with enough skill to remain relevant is Livan Hernandez. Yes, the very same Hernandez that has managed 19.6 WAR since 2002, nearly equivalent to Kenny Rogers (missed all of 2007, retired after 2008) and Freddy Garcia (23 starts since 2006).

Clearly, there is value in consistency. Teams must love knowing that they can plug Livan into a starting slot and rest assured that he will give them 180+ innings, even if they’re not particularly strong of late. His FIP hasn’t been below 4.00 since 2004 and last year’s 4.44 FIP was downright resurgent after a terrible 2007 with the Diamondbacks and a merely poor season split between Minnesota and Colorado in 2008.

It’s not like he was an ace in years prior to our win-value era, either. His best single-season FIP came in Florida’s 1997 World Series run, and that was at 3.57 – respectable, but not necessarily at ace level, and it only came in 17 starts. Livan has been living on pitching to contact and allowing just few enough HRs and BBs to stay in the league. His workmanlike performance has Rally placing him all the way down at 473rd among all pitchers in terms of career WAR, despite this remarkable durability.

And yet somehow, Livan keeps on plugging along. His fastball velocity is all the way down to 84-85 MPH average velocity, and yet he somehow manages to get major league hitters out. Here’s to longevity, and good luck to Livan Hernandez on continuing his streak.