Rizzo and Kasten both mentioned they’d be signing a veteran starter to help protect the young arms. I didn’t think it’d be this season, and I certainly didn’t think it’d be Livan Hernandez. Someone who wasn’t good enough to hang with the Mets isn’t going to solidify this rotation much. Meanwhile, Livan is an ex-Expo. I don’t know if being traded away and returning counts, but I don’t like the whole Montreal continuity thing here.

I asked Shawn Hoffman of Baseball Prospectus during his chat about the idea. He doesn’t seem to think this move will pay off, at least not in the win category.

Charlie (Bethesda, MD): Livan to protect the young pitchers? Does this make sense? Was Rizzo worried that some meatball subs were gonna attack the clubhouse?

Shawn Hoffman: Livan to get Bryce Harper, you mean. This is Rizzo’s all-in move for the first pick next year.

But seriously folks, not everyone is having a laugh at Livan’s expense. Rotoworld had a different take:

He’s obviously not the answer to every one of Washington’s problems, but isn’t a bad stopgap to next season.

That would surprise me. Finishing up this season to ease the burden on young arms is one thing. But if they go into the season with Livan as one of the starters, I’d be kinda surprised. We’ll see what happens. The other part of what Rotoworld said makes more sense to me

Upon first glance, the signing makes little sense, but when you realize that Hernandez can save some life on a taxed bullpen, he’s exactly what the Nationals need

Despite being around forever, he’s only 34, so you never know if he’s got a few years left in him. As for the stats, we’ll, they would suggest otherwise. Over the last 3 seasons, he’s had an ERA of 5.46, and struck out 232 while walking 173. But this has been over 519 1/3 innings, and he started over 30 games in ’07 and ’08. As an innings eater, he is there, but I’m not sure that he can provide much more than some other organizational arms. The last time he pitched well was the half season after he got traded to Arizona – 3.76 ERA in 10 starts – back in 2006. Before that, he turned in a few good years with Washington and Montreal from 2003-2005. Which brings us back to the whole, he used to be on the Expos thing.

The good with him is that he’s still going to devour innings. Entering 2009, he averaged 33 starts per year for the last 11 seasons. So at least you know he’s gonna go out there and pitch. Last night he did just that, giving up 2 ER in 6 IP. It was a strong outing, the kind of outing that you get excited if one of the rookies does it. With Livan, you might find the faults – didn’t pitch past the 6th? What’s up with that? But that kind of outing is probably nothing more than Rizzo wanted – 6 or 7 IP of 2 or 3 ER and you’re happy. Striking out 6 was pretty surprising and isn’t expected most times out. Which may hint that this kind of performance isn’t going to be repeated.

The best thing that Livan brings is this endurance. I’m not sure why he only went 6 innings last night, but unlike the rest of the staff, you figure you can leave him in for 8 or 9 every game if you want. You wouldn’t want to do that with a 24 year old. But leaving Livo in helps the bullpen, and it might teach the young guys a thing or two.

In Other Ex-Nats News

Nick Johnson was placed on the DL yesterday, retroactive to August 17. It’s a strained hamstring, so it’s nothing spectacular, like some of his past injuries. However, it’s just a reminder to those who advocate signing him for 2 years in the offseason or something like that. It’s more of a roll of the dice than most free agent signings. If you’re gonna roll the dice on a injury-riddled free agent, I have some other suggestions.

By Charlie