There are moments in life where you don’t forget where you were when you heard breaking news. Last year, I went down to the Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL, a half business, half vacation trip with my wife. We visited my brother and his wife, hung out at the meetings for a bit, did some reporting, and went to the Magic Kingdom.
I remember very vividly receiving a text from a friend that had grown tired of the Phillies. Before I could read the first, another three texts arrived from this same friend.
“I can’t believe the Phillies signed him!”
“You’re down there, what are you hearing?!”
“Why did the Phillies sign Roberto Hernandez?!”
Momentarily forgetting that the former Fausto Carmona was now Roberto Hernandez, I, too, had wondered why the Phillies had signed a retired reliever. My friend, a bit more savvy than I during my funnel cake-fueled day of Disney World ecstasy, reminded me that this was not the former reliever but indeed the former Carmona.
From the beginning, this deal looked rough. Or expensive. Or rough and expensive. One year, $4.5 million for a 33 year old that had faked his own identity? Aside from any moral concerns, Hernandez had a composite 13-31 record with a 5.19 ERA in his last three Major League seasons. Of all the veterans to take a chance on, why would the Phillies take a chance on Hernandez?
Hernandez, though, was reliable for a team that saw it’s initial starting five man rotation decimated out of the gate. Starting 20 games, and appearing in three games as a reliever, Hernandez averaged just under six innings per start with an overall ERA of 3.87. Hernandez, however, was not very effective, often laboring through starts, including 12 starts over 100 pitches, getting through the seventh inning or longer just twice out of those games.
Hernandez would be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in what looks to be an exceptional deal for the Phillies on paper. The Phillies received 19-year old starting RHP Victor Arano and 20-year old infielder Jesmuel Valentin in what has the potential to be their best trade in quite some time. The move was a curious one for the Dodgers; Hernandez would end up 35th out of 43 qualified pitchers in the NL in ERA but the league’s absolute worst in FIP, xFIP, and SIERRA with the third-worst BB/9 IP and the sixth-worst K/9 IP in the NL. There wasn’t much that went right for Hernandez in 2014 but credit goes to Ruben Amaro and company for finding a way to turn the remainder of Hernandez’s one-year deal into something positive for the future.
Grade: D- Sure, on the surface, Hernandez’s 3.87 ERA and 6-8 record look an awful lot like David Buchanan‘s 3.75 ERA and 6-8 record. But, the devil is in the details. Hernandez was, by every other measure, among the NL’s worst pitchers in 2014 and was the NL’s worst pitcher by SIERRA, FIP, and xFIP. Hernandez was not able to strike folks out and was heavily prone to issuing free passes, contributing to the worst K/BB ratio in the NL. And to be quite frank, Hernandez’s games were agonizing to sit through, watching pitch after pitch miss out of the zone, seeing what felt like every hitter get into a full count.
In slight defense of Hernandez, his biggest rough patch came with the Dodgers, where he posted a 4.74 ERA and struggled even more than he did as a Phillie. This grade should be an F but Hernandez showed just enough to catch the eye of the pitching-desperate Dodgers which landed the Phils two nice pieces and we have to give him credit (?) for the fact that his worst numbers that deflated his FIP, xFIP, and SIERRA came with the Dodgers.