Livan La Vida Loca

In order to cope with the loss of two starting pitchers from last year’s club, the Twins imported veteran starter Livan Hernandez to fill innings at a reasonable clip. At this point in his career, though, it was clear that Hernandez wasn’t going to be much more than a pitch to contact innings eater. Well, he’s lived up to that persona and then some.


A guy who posted average strikeout rates in his prime is now transitioning into the second stage of his career as the new Nate Cornejo. His K/9 this year stands at a paltry 2.83, second lowest in baseball among starting pitchers. Only Jon Garland, who we discussed previously, is missing bats with less frequency than Livan Hernandez. In fact, both Garland and Hernandez are posting remarkably low strikeout rates compared to recent history.

Since 1988, only 17 pitchers have tossed 100 or more innings in a season with a K/9 of 3.00 or less, combining to make it happen 22 times. Kirk Rueter was the last to do it, pitching himself out of baseball in 2005 with a 2.10 K/9. The previously mentioned Cornejo did it in 2003, but only lasted 25 innings into the 2004 season before seeing his career end as well. Clearly, this isn’t a list of guys who went on to have long, productive careers after watching their ability to rack up the strikeouts all but disappear.

However, Hernandez has managed to succeed despite the strikeout rate by dramatically cutting down on his walks and keeping the ball in the yard. In all, he’s actually posting a not horrible 4.46 FIP, and while he probably won’t be able to keep his home run rate this low, that he’s not walking anyone should give the Twins hope that he can squeeze together a few more months of useful pitching. Hernandez isn’t a guy you want in your rotation long term, but given the choice between paying Carlos Silva $48 million over four years or paying Hernandez $5 million for one year, it seems pretty clear that Minnesota made the right choice.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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