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Friday, June 15, 2012

Sullivan: The Subtle Magic of Livan Hernandez

The definitely immortal Eric Gregg!

As a baseball fan, you might say it’s seldom a good time to talk about Livan Hernandez. Livan Hernandez is by no means new, fresh, or exciting, and he’s not very good, and there are just so many things about baseball that are more interesting than Livan Hernandez is. Who among you wants to be reading about Livan Hernandez right now?...

Friday, Livan Hernandez was designated for assignment by the Braves. If there’s a good time to talk about Livan Hernandez, it’s now, so off we go.

since 2008, Livan has generated 22 more strikes than expected per 1,000 pitches. That’s the fourth-highest rate out of the 509-pitcher sample, and the two guys directly in front of him had somewhat limited playing time… Livan Hernandez has effectively been pitching with a bigger strike zone than pretty much everyone else, which has allowed him to get by with worse pitches than pretty much everyone else…

We’ve only recently begun to understand more about the significance of pitch-framing. It’s allowed us to better appreciate catchers like Jose Molina. But there’s a pitcher influence to gaining and losing the strike zone as well, and Livan Hernandez has it figured out better than most. Better than almost all. Livan Hernandez has long been getting more benefits of the doubt than the overwhelming majority of his peers, thanks to the way that he pitches, and largely for that reason, Livan Hernandez is still pitching. Maybe you don’t like that this is a part of the game, but as long as it is, some guys will be better at it than others, and Livan Hernandez is one of the very very best.

The District Attorney Posted: June 15, 2012 at 10:47 PM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: braves, diamondbacks, expos, giants, livan hernandez, marlins, mets, nationals, rockies, twins

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   1. Enrico Pallazzo Posted: June 16, 2012 at 12:17 AM (#4158427)
Some of this might be because he's usually pitching in blowouts as the long-man and the umps are trying to push the game along.
   2. tjm1 Posted: June 16, 2012 at 02:11 AM (#4158456)
Well, compare the two charts in the article. Hernandez basically never throws anything down the middle of the plate. But he's also almost never really far from the plate. Masterson's pitches seem to be distirbuted almost symmetrically about the very middle of the strike zone. I wonder if the issue is really just that Hernandez is routinely hitting the edges of the strike zone, plus or minus a few inches, and that leads to more borderline calls in his favor than it will for other pitchers. I doubt it's any kind of pitch-framing type effect.
   3. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: June 16, 2012 at 02:28 AM (#4158458)
I wonder if the issue is really just that Hernandez is routinely hitting the edges of the strike zone, plus or minus a few inches, and that leads to more borderline calls in his favor than it will for other pitchers. I doubt it's any kind of pitch-framing type effect.


I think it's a combination of Livan and the backstop. The catcher sets up at the edge of the zone, plus a few inches. Livan throws it where the catcher is setting up, meaning the catcher doesn't have to move to receive pitch. Ump sees the pitcher hitting the exact spot where the catcher has set up to receive the pitch, and thus calls it a strike. If the exact same pitch is thrown to a catcher who has to move across the zone to catch it, that's more likely to result in a ball.

And dammit, if you can pull that off consistently, more power to you.



   4. shoewizard Posted: June 16, 2012 at 04:16 AM (#4158463)
Can you imagine what it was like watching Livan Hernandez and Doug Davis "eating" 400 innings for the 2007 Diamondbacks with their 1.6 WHIPS ?

Death by a thousand cuts.
   5. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: June 16, 2012 at 09:51 AM (#4158501)
worst ERA+ with >3000 IP
   6. boteman is not here 'til October Posted: June 16, 2012 at 10:26 AM (#4158520)
Being a Nats fan I have too much sentiment wrapped up with Livan to look at this objectively. But the proof of the pudding is the number of teams that have picked him up and allowed him to post some modicum of success, all while fans of said teams were exclaiming "NOOOOOOO! Not Livan Hernandez!!!11!!" He must be doing something right.

I have to believe that some component of his success is situational in that the hitters who have seen the starter throw 85-95 mph for 4-6 innings now see The Large Tub of Goo hand-carry his eephus slop ball up there 60-70 mph and swing at least twice at it before it hits the catcher's mitt. Livo's "fastball" looks like the starter's very slow changeup. That has to figure in a little bit.

Of course, that little bit of magic runs out fairly quickly in game situations, and also over real time as opposing teams figure him out. Maybe Livo has exhausted the number of rubes he can dupe?
   7. bjhanke Posted: June 16, 2012 at 11:00 PM (#4159058)
You know, Livan, like Jamie Moyer, HAS to be able to pitch at the edges of the plate and get those pitches called strikes. Neither one has enough stuff left to survive at all by any other means. The only serious question is whether they just have control, or whether they, over the years, have developed books on all the umpires and know who they can get to call a pitch 3 inches low a strike and who will not call that one but will give them three inches high and outside. BTW, my father, a high school catcher (which is admittedly not MLB ball), said that the trick to framing pitches is to set up a little FURTHER AWAY from the plate than you want your pitcher to throw. The umpire sees the glove moving TOWARDS the center of the strike zone, and calls a strike. Of course, your pitcher has to aim not at the center of the glove, but a little towards the strike zone for this to work. - Brock Hanke

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