The Luckiest Man Alive

In a few hours, Livan Hernandez will take the hill against the Mets, and he will look to continue one of the luckiest runs in the history of major league baseball.

A quick look at the gap between Hernandez’s ERA (1.46) and his xFIP (5.09) would tell that he’s gotten fortunate, but I don’t even think those numbers do justice just how incredibly Hernandez has walked the tightrope this season.

He’s thrown 49 1/3 innings in his seven starts and allowed just nine runs while putting 51 men on base. Well, that’s not really true, because he’s allowed six home runs, so those guys were never really “baserunners” in the sense that most of us think of the word. Take the home runs out of the picture, and Hernandez has put 45 guys on base. Three of them have scored.

Three. Out of 45.

And the hilarious part is that he hasn’t even pitched all that well with runners on base. He’s pitched to 71 hitters when there as at least one man on. Of those 71, he’s walked nine, struck out just six, and posted an okay-but-not-spectacular 47% groundball percentage. However, opponents have an .054 batting average on balls in play against him in those situations. Oh Fifty Four.

It’s even better when opponents have put a runner in scoring position. In the 38 batters who have faced Hernandez with a chance to drive in a run, one has gotten a hit, and it was a single. Opponents are 1 for 30 with seven walks and a sac fly against Livan in RISP situations. Only four of those 29 outs were strikeouts.

I figured I should write about this while I still had the chance, because every time he takes the hill, there’s a chance it will all just blow up. No one can sustain this for very long, especially not a guy who just throws the ball over the plate and hopes the ball finds one of his fielders. But yet, for seven miraculous starts, Hernandez has seen just that happen.

It’s one of the most amazing things we’ll ever see on a baseball field.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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dlb
Guest
dlb
6 years 1 month ago

That’s funny; I was just looking at Justin Masterson’s BABIP of .412 and thinking, ‘wow, that’s unlucky.’ (his is the current highest in MLB)

Teej
Member
Teej
6 years 1 month ago

Out of pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings, he’s also giving up more line drives than anyone in baseball. So the BABIP is probably higher than it should be, but it’s not insanely unlucky.

Alex
Guest
Alex
6 years 1 month ago

“Out of pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings, he’s also giving up more line drives than anyone in baseball.”

This isn’t even close to accurate.

Lintyfresh
Guest
6 years 1 month ago

The line drive comment was about Masterson, not Livo.

Masterson does have the highest line drive % out of all pitchers with 30 IP.

Alex
Guest
Alex
6 years 1 month ago

“Masterson does have the highest line drive % out of all pitchers with 30 IP.”

No he does not. The stats are posted on this very site; it should not be hard for you guys to figure this out. After you click “30 IP” then you have to sort the table again. Masterson is just at the table of the random set by default.

Masterson LD%: 21.5

There are like 30 guys with worse rates, such as:

Bud Norris: 27.4

or

Matt Harrison: 23.4

Brad Johnson
Member
Member
6 years 1 month ago

I was considering writing this exact post if he managed to squeeze by the Mets tonight. Damn you David Cameron!!!

:)

Obligatory Sox Fan
Guest
Obligatory Sox Fan
6 years 1 month ago

How is 49 innings of 1.46 ERA worth only 0.3 WAR? That doesn’t make sense to me.

Alex
Guest
Alex
6 years 1 month ago

Pitcher’s WAR is scaled to FIP, not ERA.

Disturbed
Member
Disturbed
6 years 1 month ago

Yeah just going to his page and seeing 98.6% for his LOB is insane. I wonder if a starting pitcher has ever had that kind of luck this far into the season?

Brian
Guest
Brian
6 years 1 month ago

All solo home runs? That’s a pretty goofy stat, too.

sean
Guest
sean
6 years 1 month ago

He’s pitching to the situation very well.

And knows how to win.

r0ry
Guest
r0ry
6 years 1 month ago

He really bears down with runners on base.

Temo
Member
Temo
6 years 1 month ago

He doesn’t let the game get away from him. Veteran savvy.

Dave Woody
Member
Dave Woody
6 years 1 month ago

He’s such a crafty right-hander. He really knows how to win.

Ruins It for Everyone
Guest
Ruins It for Everyone
6 years 1 month ago

He’s got a big dick!

Fergie348
Guest
Fergie348
6 years 1 month ago

He’s the most mystical pitcher in the league (remember that one?)

xeifrank
Member
6 years 1 month ago

and the Nats are given a 60% chance of winning tonight by Vegas and a 66% chance by UnAccuScore. Might not be the game he blows up on, but eventually it will happen. :)
vr, Xei

Theron
Guest
Theron
6 years 1 month ago

I’m fully on board with Livan, despite everything in my head and in his stats saying it will all come crashing down. You fail to account for the possibility that a soul was bartered.

Faust
Guest
Faust
6 years 1 month ago

It happens.

Robert Johnson
Guest
Robert Johnson
5 years 3 months ago

I’ll second that.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick
6 years 1 month ago

Theron,

Is it possible to measure this? If you can’t measure it for us, can you at least use your inside info tell us if Pudge Rodriguez has also bartered his soul?

Though his BABIP – previously well north of .400 – has dropped siginificantly since I last looked. It’s now only like 40 points above his career average, not 140.

So can you explain what happened? After his years as a zombie, did Pudge not have as much soul left to sell and the deal has run out early?

Theron
Guest
Theron
6 years 1 month ago

I’ll look into it, but I’m pretty sure that the D.C. area has easy access to soul traders. Lobbyists too, if you differentiate.

toby
Guest
toby
6 years 1 month ago

Twins fans saw a less extreme version of this for 2 months in 2008. It too the notoriously anti-SABR front office WAY too long to figure out Livan hadn’t figured out a magic trick nobody else knew when the wheels came off.

toby
Guest
toby
6 years 1 month ago

too = took

Mat
Guest
Mat
6 years 1 month ago

Especially not a guy who rears back for “something extra” and hits 82.

toby
Guest
toby
6 years 1 month ago

…and he’s doing it AGAIN tonight through five. Un. Real.

Mikel
Guest
Mikel
6 years 1 month ago

What I find really funny is how tv analysts will praise Livan and say that he has reinvented himself as an above average pitcher. Not once do you hear them say “I think he’s been lucky”. Bobby Ojeda on Mets pregame, for example.

Esoteric
Guest
Esoteric
6 years 1 month ago

Steve Phillips famously predicted a few weeks ago that Livan was SO BAD that the Nationals would actually release him from the team before August. This was long after his surge was underway. Phillips is a moron, of course, but he’s way out ahead on this at least.

And holy christ, Livan did it again tonight.

J. Lewkovich
Guest
J. Lewkovich
6 years 1 month ago

He’s winning games. Maybe he just gets clutch when there are runners in scoring position?

Just Jim
Guest
Just Jim
6 years 1 month ago

Another win for the machine tonight. They Call Him Liván!

Rondo
Guest
Rondo
6 years 1 month ago

I read the title and thought this article was going to about Carlos Silva. I figured the ‘luck’ was that Silva found his way to the NL and all of sudden is on base to return to a 3.0 WAR pitcher like he was for those couple of years on the Twins.

I guessed the right position, but wrong guy…

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
6 years 1 month ago

Fat, soft-tossing righty seems to be on the right track, though.

PhD Brian
Guest
PhD Brian
6 years 1 month ago

Livan may have something going on we can’t measure well with our math. Or maybe this is because he has an ungodly good defensive outfield behind him which keeps that BABIP lower than you would normally think? Personally I would love to see him keep it up!

Bill
Guest
Bill
6 years 1 month ago

His BABIP is .193 though, even playing the best 8 defenders in the MLB all season, it won’t stay that low.

Pat
Guest
Pat
6 years 1 month ago

I’m enjoying the success Livan is having so far, it’s just hilarious. Sure he’s lucky, but the fact is he isn’t giving up many runs and that’s all that matters. They have to just take this while they can though because I don’t know how long it will last.

It would be a tough situation as a manager when he starts to struggle and you want to demote him. You have to show some faith in a veteran who’s been a big part of the franchise in the past and who has been the best pitcher for the first two months, but when you know he’s been extremely lucky it would be hard to trust that he’d get back to pitching great.

Tim Tebow
Guest
Tim Tebow
6 years 1 month ago

The luckiest man alive is Jules Jordan, not Livan Hernandez..

Cidron
Member
Cidron
6 years 1 month ago

And to think, a young stud with a 95mph rocket would be getting rocked. Veteran Savvy on display every time he takes to the mound. He doesnt know how to get them out, make them look bad, he jus knows how to WIN.

BBL
Member
BBL
6 years 1 month ago

I have another candidate for luckiest man alive, and he might take the cake given the greater period over which he has been lucky: Dan Wheeler.

2008
BABIP .202 (66.1 IP)

2009
BABIP .203 (57.2 IP)

2010
BABIP .181 (13.1 IP) – and this comes with a 97.8% strand rate to boot

Positively Half St
Guest
Positively Half St
6 years 1 month ago

There is an Irish saying something along the lines of “May you be in heaven an hour before the devil knows your dead.” I am hoping that Livo goes through the All-Star Break as he is playing now before the stats realize he’s cheating them. If he can manage that, then there is the chance that Chien-Ming Wang can pick up the slack, or maybe Ross Detwiler, if the Nats continue to be lucky.

Bowdenball
Guest
Bowdenball
6 years 1 month ago

Or maybe they have some other talent in the minor leagues that can pick up the slack? I hear some kid pitched decently last night in Syracuse. Steven Steinberg or something like that.

Obviously you’re saying they’ll need more than Jesus to pick up the slack if/when the numbers catch up to Livan, and I agree but the Nats can also hope that the numbers catch up to Stammen, who has been quite good and quite unlucky this year. ERA of 5.86, xFIP of 3.93.

I just hope to God that someone in the Nats front office is aware of how sharp Stammen has been and they keep him around when the stars show up next month instead of keeping, say, Atilano, who has been Livan-like with his good fortune and deceptively good “traditional” stat line.

MattyG
Guest
MattyG
6 years 1 month ago

“The luckiest man alive is Jules Jordan”

Agreed, Tim. And Jenna is in Philly this weekend.

Lintyfresh
Guest
6 years 1 month ago

I believe the saying is… I’d rather be lucky, than good.

I’m sure right now Livan agrees.

Jamie Gold
Guest
Jamie Gold
6 years 1 month ago

I totally agree with that statement.

Rollo
Guest
Rollo
6 years 1 month ago

Maybe Livan is consistently working ahead in the count and getting defensive swings, leading to pop-ups and weak grounders.

kevin rusch
Guest
kevin rusch
6 years 1 month ago

Remember hearing stories about how Maddox would serve up homers to guys late in lopsided games so he’d set them up for pressure situations later in the season?

Those things would, of course, NEVER show up in the stats. But the Braves won a lot of games in which he pitched.

Now, I don’t think Livo’s doing that. I’m just sayin, however, that this level of consistency would appear to be more than just luck. Just because we can’t explain it in the abstract, with statistics, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

BagsMD
Guest
BagsMD
6 years 1 month ago

This is the first season since early ’05 that Livan’s knee hasn’t bothered him, and he discovered Racquetball during the off-season, got hooked on it and worked himself into the best shape he’s been in several years. What he’s been doing isn’t all luck, it may not even be mostly luck. He’s as crafty as they come, a real throwback, who knows how to pitch, versus just throwing. Don’t forget that he did it again in this last start on only 3 days rest. The writer seems to forget that Livan was once a World Series MVP.

Guru Meditation
Guest
Guru Meditation
6 years 1 month ago

According to the sacred scrolls it will last until the coming of the Stras. So, that fangraphs will come to know their stats mean nothing when compared to the great pattern of noological meaning. So let it be told. So let it be written.

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