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Livan Hernandez – He’s Baaaaaaaaack

February 25, 2010

Now that the Nats have signed Livan Hernandez to an incentive laden minor league contract, Miguel Batista to a non-roster spring training invitation, and Ross Detwiler is out with surgery, it’s time to update my Command of the Strike Zone post.  First, here is the updated 2009 line for the pitchers currently trying to join the starting rotation on opening day. I have not included Matt Chico or Chien Ming Wang in this evaluation.  Chico had no 2009 numbers, and Wang’s numbers were severely impacted by injuries.

Recall that in my Command of the Strike Zone post, I broke the strike zone into a 5×5 grid. The center 9 squares (inside the red box) are strikes, and the outer squares are balls. This view is from the umpire’s perspective, right handed batters stand to the left of the chart. Here’s what I wrote about John Lannan…

We’ll start with John Lannan. 50.16% of the pitches John threw in 2009 were in the strike zone. Here is his breakdown. The left chart shows the pitch locations. The center chart is the opposing hitter’s batting average by zone. The chart on the right is opposing hitters slugging percentage by zone.

This is a very solid performance – a lot of pitches in the zone. The only real trouble spot was outside of the strike zone.  From a right handed batter’s perspective, pitches under the strike zone on the inside part of the plate were hit often and hit hard (.500 AVG, .857 SLG).

Here is the chart for Hernandez:

There really isn’t anything good to say about this.  Only 36.65% of all pitches were thrown in the strike zone.  It’s easy to see why he tried to nibble.  Pitches thrown for strikes were hammered.  In my last blog, I mentioned that Garrett Mock probably wouldn’t be starting because he only threw 38.46% of his pitches for strikes, and batters teed off on pitches across the plate. As a reminder, here is the chart for Garrett Mock:

Mock and Hernandez are in the same boat. Unless there is a significant improvement from last year, neither one will make the starting rotation.

Now for Miguel Batista.  In 2009, 49.80% of the pitches Batista threw were in the strike zone.

Notice that he only had 2 bad zones in AVG and 3 in SLG – all in the center of the plate.  When he kept the ball low, he was very effective.  When he served the ball down the middle, his AVG and SLG skyrocketed.  Granted, these numbers are in a relief role, where the strategy is different. Some of these pitches down the middle of the plate may have been with a large lead where he was just trying to throw strikes and get outs. Overall, these are actually serviceable Major League numbers. Batista’s bullpen experience gives him added value. As Wang, Strasburg, Detwiler are ready to move back into the rotation, the Nats can move Batista to the pen.

Based on the numbers from my last pitching post, and the new numbers from this update, I now believe that the opening day rotation will look like:

John Lannan – 50.16% strikes

Jason Marquis – 44.72% strikes

Craig Stammen41.16% strikes

Miguel Batista – 49.80% strikes

Scott Olsen (if healthy) – 48.27% strikes

While this isn’t the opening day roster a lot of us were hoping for, it’s not the worst the Nats have offered. As a fan, we are all better off that Detwiler had his surgery early. Otherwise, the Nats would have started with (their usual) assumption that one of the younger players will step up to the challenge. With this assumption comes no plan B. Detwiler’s surgery forced the Nats to bring in several potential starting pitchers before they were 10 games below .500.

On the upside, the Nats have the potential to really upgrade the rotation throughout the year with the return of Wang and Detwiler, and the promotion of Stephen Strasburg. Buy your September tickets now!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2010 8:59 AM

    This is an interesting breakdown. But, as statistics are wont to do, they don’t show a flow – or color of a pitcher. It’s black or white.

    Livan’s a junk-ball pitcher. He throws 67 MPH curveballs that move a foot and a half, which sets up his 83 MPH fastball. He doesn’t pitch to strike guys out. He throws to keep them off balance and hit into outs. And since he always pitches within himself, he usually stays healthy, and can eat innings.

    Not to mention the intangibles: he’s a great personality, clubhouse leader, and mentor to our young staff.

  2. February 25, 2010 9:39 AM

    I agree that Livan is a great personality in the clubhouse. It’s just that last year he threw his junk pitch to set up his fastball which was hit early and hit often. If it comes down to Livan or a youngster for the 5th spot, I really believe the Nats will go with a younger player (Mock?).

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