If it was anyone else with his numbers, I’d be surprised the Nats signed him. What do the Nats need from a 35 year old starting pitcher who had a 5.44 ERA last year, a 6.05 ERA the year before? It’s not like he’s a recovery-from-injury project, someone with upside to do something much better. Those numbers are probably around what you’re gonna get from him, so why? Because the person we’re talking about is Livan Hernandez, and he apparently signed a lifetime contract with the Expos that this franchise still can’t get out of. Whenever he’s out of a job, someone here brings him back.

The problem with bringing Livo in to round out the rotation, in every sense of that phrase, is that he’s completely unnecessary. I know that people will say his numbers are a bit deceiving. His 5.28 ERA over the last 4 years doesn’t reflect the number of quality starts he had. The combination of very good games and very bad games inflate his numbers. To them I say, if he had enough good games, it would balance out. Instead, the last few years have been just plain bad:

There you go, the last 2 years, he’s been nowhere near league average in ERA. If you can capture lightning in a bottle, you get nothing more than a just below league average pitcher. In other words, there is NO UPSIDE. Meanwhile, just looking at ERA+, here are the other guys that may move in and out of the rotation and their 2009 numbers:

Alright, so you look at that and, think, that, in total, isn’t quite as good as Livan over the last 5 years. But everyone except one or two guys is probably better than he was the last 2 seasons. And that last column – the age – means even if the upside isn’t huge, it still exists. These guys are journeymen who may not last a decade in the league, but they still have a chance to be better than Livan. Throw in a few other prospects – like Scott Olsen, who has more upside than Livo,  or Bradley Meyers (23 year old who dominated high A and AA last year), Jeff Mandel, some guy named Matt Chico, or even Marco Estrada who is 25 and had a 3.63 ERA with 98 Ks and 33 BBs in AAA last year – no wait, they let him go and the Brewers picked him up!

My point is that Livan provides something, but other than his occasional offensive production, there’s a slew of prospects who can provide the same thing as him. And with those guys, there is a chance they’ll be better than him. I know, 2 or 3 of those guys in the table above HAVE TO be in the rotation, and throwing Livan in at the end allows you to shuffle them. But I don’t care, if the point of this signing is to get a vet to balance out the rotation and provide production, that should been done months ago when there were guys out there. Otherwise, they should be looking towards youth.

By Charlie