Livan Hernandez signed with the Nationals, and besides a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings, what are we getting?
Livo this year had a bit of a bounce-back season in New York. It didn't hurt that he got out of hitters parks like Chase and Coors, but he's also pitched better.
Hernandez in his elder days has become a slight flyball pitcher who famously throws repertoire of off-speed junk. This season, his flyball rate is 38.5%, which is high but not extreme. Still, he's going to give up his share of home runs, and he's due for a little regression on that front, having allowed homers on just 9.2% of flyballs this year (11% is average).
His strikeout rate, which has never been good per se, had fallen to a J.D. Martin-esque 3.96 per 9 in 2007 and 3.35 per 9 in 2008. This year it creeped back up to 5.00, which is still bad but not so awful that he's unemployable.
On the other hand, his command hasn't been quite as good. Control has always been a key strength, as he's pounded the zone and forced hitters to hit his pitch, and his unintentional walk rate this season is a bit up from 5.3% to an 8.6%. That means he's gone from excellent to merely average, but given his flyball rate and strikeout rate, he needs to do an excellent job of not giving away baserunners.
Durability of course has always been his calling card. That's a touch overblown these days, however. He's pitched into the sixth inning in only half his starts this year and gone over 120 pitches just once. That's mostly been because he's been getting hammered, but still he's lost a lot of his ability to go deep into games.
Bottom line, Hernandez should give the team replacement-level innings for cheap and keep them from forcing another unready young arm into the rotation. John Lannan is gassed, Collin Balester pitched himself out of a job, and no one's given the team consistent innings all year. So it makes sense, given the options.
One last thing: to make room for Hernandez, Dmitri Young is finally moved to the 60-day DL. It's amazing that not only did the team blow $10 million on him over the last two years, but allowed him to fill up a 40-man roster spot for so long.