Signed by the Braves to fill the setup role and Albie Lopez’s hard-throwing fat guy job. A longtime closer, mostly with bad teams, Hernandez relies on that fastball. He still throws hard, but in the last couple of years his strikeout rate has plummeted to earth and he’s posted ERAs in the fours.
Kansas City, where he’s been the last couple of seasons, is a tough place to pitch these days, but the simple fact is that he hasn’t been any good. Hitters hit .300 against him with some power, though his control was pretty good. The Braves have gotten good work out of pitchers like this in the past and taking a chance on him for a relatively low cost is a pretty good idea.
Something to remember about Hernandez is that despite 320 career saves, he’s never really been an elite closer. He blows a lot of saves (though some of that might be the way he’s been used). He’s had years of ten, nine, and eight (three times) blown saves, which is at or near league-leading territory, in ten years as a closer. His best season in the glory role was probably 1996, when he had 38 saves and a 1.91 ERA, but even then he blew eight saves. He’s blown nearly twenty percent of his career save opportunities, which seems high to me… He and Holmes will probably divide up most of the setup opportunites, assisted by whoever the top lefty in the pen is.
Hernandez is still capable, it’s just that he’s not worth “closer money” (and really hasn’t been for at least five years). The Braves aren’t paying him anywhere near that, so he’s worth the risk of a Reardon-esque meltdown.
But like I said in the Gryboski discussion, Rudy Seanez is still a mere phone call away. And he now works for favored trading partner John Hart, to boot.
They televised the saturday game against the Mets here in NY, and Hernandez looked OK but not great in his one inning. Even if it was an exhibition it was great seeing live baseball again.
They also showed Tommy’s 1st innings – it was just plain weird seeing him in that orange jersey. He had a bad outing but they were basically dinking and dunking him to death – oh wait, I’m not supposed to pay attention to him anymore. Sigh.