Tag:Livan Hernandez
Posted on: May 3, 2011 11:34 am
 

Nats starters go deep (no, not home runs)

Only one team in the majors has yet to go to the bullpen in the first five innings of a game.

No, it's not the Phillies. Or the Giants. Or the A's.

Keep guessing, and let me know when you get to the Nationals.

Yes, the Nationals.

Last year, they didn't get past opening day without an early departure by the starter. By the end of the year, they had 38, the most in the majors.

Now, they're the only team without one (every other team has at least two, led by the Pirates with seven).

It's all according to plan.

"I'm not a big stat guy, but I firmly believe that the farther the starter goes in a game, the better chance you have of winning," pitching coach Steve McCatty said by phone Tuesday morning. "You try to get guys to know they have to go farther in the game to give you a chance to win."

It's not exactly revolutionary thinking, but McCatty has prioritized limiting walks over striking out batters. Sure enough, Nationals starters have just 45 walks in 173 innings, fewer than any rotation other than the Phillies.

"We're trying to stress it in the minor leagues, too," he said. "One thing the pitch count has done is it keeps guys from going deep in games, but we're telling guys you can go seven innings with 100 pitches or less.

"I was a guy who threw 135-145 pitches every time out, but just because I did it doesn't make it right."

The Nationals have gotten innings out of their starters without running high pitch counts. No Nats starter has thrown more than 109 pitches in a game, and last Friday against the Giants Jason Marquis threw a 96-pitch complete game.

The five-inning thing, as McCatty admits, isn't the best indicator. The Nationals are only in the middle of the pack in starts of six innings-plus (they have 19 in 28 games), and the Nats have just six starts of seven innings-plus (the Rays lead baseball with 15).

But for an unheralded staff -- Livan Hernandez, John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann, Marquis and Tom Gorzelanny form the Nationals rotation -- the five-inning streak is impressive.

Especially from a rotation no one has paid attention to since Stephen Strasburg got hurt.

Posted on: September 24, 2010 11:45 am
Edited on: September 24, 2010 12:23 pm
 

3 to watch: The Giant issue edition

Even if you count the Rockies as now basically out of the National League West -- the standings say they're in serious trouble, their recent history says who knows? -- the Giants' three games this weekend at Coors Field are a potentially huge obstacle to San Francisco's chances of winning the division.

Despite what happened Thursday at Wrigley Field (a nine-run inning, a 13-0 win), the Giants' path to first place in the West has been built almost totally on pitching. Including Thursday, they've now gone 17 games since they last allowed four runs, a streak that according to the Elias Sports Bureau is the longest by any team in a single season since the 1917 White Sox went 20 games in a row.

Now they go to Coors Field, where the Rockies have scored four or more in 19 of their last 21 games, and where the home team hits so well that some Giants apparently think the Rockies have been monkeying with the humidor process .

Since Coors Field opened in 1995, only five teams have gone through an entire three-game series without ever allowing four runs. All five of those series have come in the humidor era (which began in 2002), but it still comes down to one series a season -- and it hasn't happened yet this year.

And the Giants, despite all their pitching and despite three trips a year to Colorado, have never done it.

Maybe that's why the Giants haven't won a season series at Coors since 2005. They're 2-4 in the first six games this year, so they'd need a sweep to win this season series.

Given the Rockies' collapse on the road this week -- they couldn't hold a 6-1 lead Sunday in Los Angeles, then got swept in three games in Arizona -- the Giants don't necessarily need a sweep this weekend. Their lead over the Padres is only a half-game, but San Diego also faces a potentially tough series, at home against the Reds.

Besides, the Giants' head-to-head showdown with the Padres next weekend will be at AT&T Park, where the Giants have allowed just 16 runs in their last nine games.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Tim Lincecum hasn't won at Coors Field since May 20, 2008. Then again, Lincecum hadn't won anywhere for a month before his 2-1 win over the Rockies on Sept. 1 in San Francisco. He's been very good the entire month, and maybe that means he'll win at Coors, too, when he opens the series in Giants at Rockies, Friday night (8:10 ET) at Coors Field . While the Giants are 0-4 in Lincecum's last four starts in Colorado, he hasn't been awful, with a 4.32 ERA in that span.

2. The Reds enter the weekend with a magic number of 3, and that means the soonest they could clinch their first division title in 15 years is in Reds at Padres, Saturday afternoon (4:05 ET) at Petco Park . That would take a little cooperation from the second-place Cardinals, but all the Cardinals have been doing recently is cooperating. As Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse pointed out on Twitter, the Cards are 9-17 since Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols attended Glenn Beck's rally in Washington.

3. The biggest advantage the Braves have in the National League wild-card race is that the Giants and Padres play each other next weekend. That means for three of the remaining 10 days on the schedule, either the Giants or the Padres is guaranteed to lose (and that the team that wins could win the division and not affect the Braves' wild-card chances at all). For it to be an advantage, though, the Braves need to win. They need to do to the Nationals this weekend what they did to the Mets last weekend, and that means they need to beat Livan Hernandez in Braves at Nationals, Sunday afternoon (1:35 ET) at Nationals Park . Hernandez threw eight shutout innings in a 6-0 win over the Braves last weekend in Atlanta, and he's 2-1 with a 2.19 ERA in four starts against the Braves this year. The Braves starter Sunday, they hope is Jair Jurrjens, who missed his Monday start in Philadelphia with a knee problem. As manager Bobby Cox said, "He'd better be able to pitch." Sunday is also the Braves' final regular-season road game, which means it's the final time an opposing team will pay tribute to Cox, who is retiring at the end of the season. The best gifts he has received so far: a No. 6 from the scoreboard at Wrigley Field, a set of wine glasses with all the NL team logos from the Reds, and many checks to support his charity helping homeless veterans. Cox entered the weekend with 2,499 wins in 4,499 career games.




Posted on: June 25, 2010 11:07 pm
 

The nuttiest no-hitter yet

The pitch-count police are no doubt screaming.

I'm not. I can't. I'm too stunned to scream.

Another no-hitter? With eight walks? On 149 pitches?

Really?

Oh yeah, another no-hitter, and this time it's Edwin Jackson of the Diamondbacks, against the Rays, the team that traded him away a year and a half ago. It's the Rays, the team that has been the loser in two perfect games in the last 12 months, now losing an imperfect game.

And it really was 149 pitches, with eight walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch.

Really.

Yes, 149 pitches, the most anyone had thrown in a major-league game in almost five years (and the most anyone other than Livan Hernandez had thrown in more than six years). And the most anyone had thrown in a no-hitter in all the history that baseball-reference.com has recorded.

The pitch-count police are not going to like that. They're going to say that Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch was reckless, that he was putting Jackson's health at risk.

I'm not so sure about that. I'm not so sure that Hinch didn't help Jackson, by allowing him a night he'll never forget -- and, perhaps, a night that could help him understand how good he can be.

Jackson is talented enough that he made the American League All-Star team last year with the Tigers. But he's erratic enough that he has a 43-45 career record, inconsistent enough that the Rays basically wouldn't pitch him in the 2008 postseason, then traded him to the Tigers (who a year later traded him to Arizona).

Before Friday, he had completed two of 125 career starts. His lone shutout before this came in 2007, a season he began with eight straight losses and an 8.20 ERA.

Did I mention he's been inconsistent?

Anyway, Hinch has regularly allowed Jackson to throw more than 110 pitches, and twice before he's allowed him to go past the 120-pitch mark. Jackson is 26 years old, and he's already proven to be durable.

He has good enough stuff that it shouldn't be a total surprise that he could throw a no-hitter -- especially in this year where almost anyone can throw a no-hitter.

But a 149-pitch no-hitter, with eight walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch?

That is a surprise. A total surprise.

And I'm still too stunned to scream.
Posted on: March 14, 2010 7:14 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2010 7:15 pm
 

From Florida to Arizona, Chapman to Strasburg

VIERA, Fla. -- Aroldis Chapman is the guy everyone wants to see in Arizona. Stephen Strasburg is the guy everyone wants to see in Florida.

Imagine if they were both in the same spring training camp.

"I spent a lot of time imagining that," Nationals president Stan Kasten said with a smile.

The Nationals were one of a few teams that went deep into the bidding for Chapman, along with the A's, the Marlins and the Reds, who eventually got the deal done for $30.25 million over six years. The Nationals' final bid was for about $25 million.

"I give [Reds general manager] Walt Jocketty a lot of credit," Nats GM Mike Rizzo said.


Strasburg made his second start of the spring today, overcoming strong winds to throw three scoreless innings against the Cardinals. In two starts, the 21-year-old right-hander has pitched five scoreless innings, impressing just about everyone who has seen him.

The Nationals will almost certainly have him start his pro career in the minor leagues, but they see him joining their rotation soon. And they still dream of what it would have been like to have had Chapman in that rotation, too.

"It would have been an excellent 1-2 punch," Rizzo said.

*****

One question I had about Chapman: If he's as good as advertised, what happened to the big-spending teams? Nothing against the Reds, A's, Marlins and Nationals, but couldn't the Yankees or Red Sox have blown them out of the water?

One possible answer is that the big-money teams weren't as impressed. The other, though, is that Chapman told teams he was very focused on getting to the big leagues quickly, and was most interested in going to a team that would give him that chance.

*****

I missed Chapman's first start for the Reds, because I had to be at the Brewers camp that day. I missed Jason Heyward, because he didn't play either of the times I saw the Braves.

I wasn't about to miss a chance to see Strasburg. He doesn't disappoint, even if his velocity today wasn't as good as it can be (94-96 mph). As one of the scouts watching said, he shows two legitimate strikeout pitches (fastball and breaking ball), and he's willing to throw the breaking ball at any time.

*****

Livan Hernandez, who followed Strasburg, has a chance to open the season in the Nationals rotation. But what was more interesting to me is what Hernandez, who left Cuba in 1995, had to say about Chapman, who left last year.

While first saying that the decision on whether to have Chapman start in the big leagues is up to the Reds front office, Hernandez said that he thinks any Cuban defector can benefit from time in the minor leagues.

"I think the language will be the most difficult thing for him," Hernandez said.

Hernandez spent all of the 1996 season and part of the 1997 season in the minors.

"I think it helped me a lot," he said. "I think [Chapman] is going to be all right. But the game here is different from Cuba."

And what about Reds fans, who are so anxious to see the guy the Reds gave all that money to?

"Their fans can wait a little bit," Hernandez said.
 
 
 
 
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