OK! There's a baseball game to be played, people! The beauty of America's pastime is that there's always tomorrow. And momentum is only as good as the next night's starting pitcher. And damn if isn't going to be a nice night at Nationals Park!
And it's our old friend Livan Hernandez! Remember big ol' cuddly Livo? Boy, those were the days. Remember--8 in a row! 9 in a row! 10 IN A ROW!!!! Woo-hoo!!!!!!!!!
Here's my take on game 2.
Livan Hernandez: Has there ever been a worse idea than Livan Hernandez pitching in Coors Field? New Coke? An entire musical made up Abba songs? Cynthia McKinney for President? I don't know. Our old buddy Livo pitching in the thin air of Denver might just take the cake.
It was particularly amusing to hear Clint Hurdle justify the move by talking about what a great "big game" pitcher Livan is. A) That was when he didn't suck, and B) what big games do you think you're going to be playing this year, Clint? So far, since the Rockies picked him up off the scrap heap, Livo has had one start: 2.2 IP, 9 ER, 7 H, 4 BB, and 1 K. That would be good for a 30.38 ERA.
In short, Hernandez is just a big, fat, terrible pitcher. It's been a long time since he was a strikeout pitcher, but now he's almost totally unable to miss bats. He has a 8.5% K rate, compared to 13.8% in 2005 and the league average of 16%. He still doesn't walk anyone (5.6%, vs. league average 8%), but that doesn't help when you're getting tatooed to the tune of an .891 OPS against, which means that the average hitter against Livo performs like Aramis Ramirez. He does have an unsustainably high .349 BABIP (batting average on balls in play, not counting HRs), and all those super-smart statheads insist that BABIP is a function of luck and defensive performance, but Livan is the kind of pitcher where the common sense just makes you think that it's not bad luck or defense--it's that hitters are knocking the snot out of the ball every time.
Since the days when we loved him in RFK in '05, he's lost 3 more mph off his 'fastball,' which now comes in at 83. But his throwing it a lot more--71% of the time in fact. That's an awful lot of the same pitch for a guy who gets by on deception alone. He still throws the same silly looping curveball, which now comes in at 65 mph. He mixes in a slider and an occasional change up.
John Lannan: I would talk more about him, but like JimBo last night, I'm just running out of time. Here's what I wrote before his last start against the Brewers (I strongly recommend watching that highlight reel of Lannans' last start against the Rox--it warmed my broken heart a bit):
Lannan had one of his best games of the year last time out, throwing seven innings of two-run ball in Coors. Watch how one guy after another swings over the top of a breaking pitch. You do that by spotting your fastball (he gets Baker and Tulo looking at fastballs on the black) and then putting guys away with good curves that fall right out of the zone. Those curveballs aren't huge knee-benders--they only put guys away because Lannan knows how to set it up and has the command to pull it off.What To Look For
--Livan is the kind of junkballer who is so frustrating to watch against the Nationals because we'll swing at his junk and make outs. And when we get pitches to hit, we'll get sharp singles when we should be hitting it over the Southeast Freeway. Actually, this is the kind of pitcher where you can be victimized by being under-aggressive. He has to get ahead, and his stuff is so hittable, that strike one may be the most hittable pitch all night.
--Kearns and Zimmerman in particular have had their way against Livo.
--Livan can still hit, though. He has a career .232 BA.
What to Root For
Just be glad we don't have Livan pitching for us tonight.
(Season record: 13-11)
Lannan pitches well but takes the no-decision as the Nationals can't score and the Rockies beat up on the 'pen and win 6-3. I know, really going out on a limb there!