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2014 Phillies Player Preview: Roberto Hernandez

If a fifth starter is a myth, then Roberto Hernandez is Legend.

Look at all those empty seats in Toronto.
Look at all those empty seats in Toronto.
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Spo

Roberto Hernandez has a job with the Phillies during 2014.

Roberto Hernandez

#27 / Pitcher / Philadelphia Phillies





Aug 30, 1980

2013 Season: 6 - 10, 4.63 FIP, 6.74 K/9, 2.26 BB/9, 53.2 GB%, fWAR: 0.2, ERA+ 78 in 151.0 innings pitched.

2014 Projections:
Steamer........ 5 - 5 W/L, 6.45 K/9, 2.37 BB/9, 0.67 HR/9, 3.54 FIP, 77.0 innings, 1.1 fWAR
Oliver............ 6 - 8 W/L,5.56 K/9, 2.34 BB/9, 1.61 HR/9, 5.14 FIP, 123.0 innings, -0.7 fWAR

Contract: 1 year for $4.5 million

Hernandez at and


Spahn and Sain and pray for rain. The Phillies rotation for 2014, right? Nope. That was 2013. Kyle Kendrick wasn't awful as a third starter (1.7 fWAR in his 182 innings), and of the 79 starting pitchers with qualifying innings, Kendrick was a respectable 62nd in all of MLB. Figuring that there are 150 "slots" for starting pitchers in the majors, the Phillies were in good shape for slots 1 (Lee), 2 (Hamels), and 3 (Kendrick).

Jonathan Pettibone was ok for a fourth starter, but he got hurt after pitching just over 100 innings, to the tune of 0.6 fWAR. John Lannan was not a train wreck, at 74 innings and fWAR of 0.3. Tyler Cloyd was good for 60 innings and an fWAR of 0.2. These are not great numbers, but they are not awful, awful, awful ones. They are about par for the back end of the rotation. Maybe even not bad for the back end.

The tire fire at the bottom of the rotation resulted from the 25 games started by Roy Halladay, Zach Miner, Raul Valdes, and Ethan Martin. In a 5 man rotation, your best pitchers will start about 30 - 33 games. Your "fifth starter" will get somewhat fewer, since this spot will be skipped when the chance presents itself. Still, it is a rotation slot that should see 25 or so starts per year, allowing for occasional missed starts, bullpen games, and the like. And the "fifth starter" is kind of a myth anyway. And pitching depth is really important. Folks should talk more about "sixth starters" since almost every team needs one.

If the Phillies have a healthy Lee, Hamels, and Kendrick, then Roberto Hernandez will be called upon to be either the 4th or 5th starter for the team. This is a role for which he is well-suited, if he can stay healthy (which is essentially a standard pitcher caveat).

Hernandez is a right-handed pitcher, which balances Lee and Hamels in the rotation in terms of handedness if not "being a good pitcher"ness. He did not pitch in the majors in most of 2012, resulting in no small part from his whole name/identity fraud issue and his troubles getting a work visa.

Hernandez' most remarkable feature as a pitcher is his groundball rate. He induces tons and tons of ground balls, never going below 50% in his career, and surpassing 60% in his heyday early on with the Indians. His walk rate skyrocketed at times in his career, but he seems to have that controlled, with BB/9 rates of 2.26 (2013) and 2.86 (2011) in his most-recent full seasons. His strikeout rate has always been fairly low, bouncing around between the mid 5's and never exceeding 7.00.

So, he is a right-handed, groundball pitcher who doesn't walk tons of people but who cannot strike out many folks, either.

I think he will play well in Philadelphia in 2014.

To start with, Hernandez will have the benefit of pitching without Michael Young at third behind him. Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins appear good to go behind him, too. If one of them falters, credible defensive replacements are available. An outfield with Domonic Brown, Ben Revere, and Marlon Byrd should cover more territory than one with Darin Ruf, John Mayberry, and uh...other people. In other words, he should have a decent defense behind him, especially on the mobile part (not Ryan Howard) of the infield. For a groundballer, that is obviously critical.

If Hernandez gives the Phillies the same production that he gave to the Rays last year, the Phillies will do markedly better at the bottom of the rotation than they did with the patchwork they had, even if some of that resulted from an attitude that might be characterized as, "Well, the season is shot, so let's see what we have here."

If Hernandez produces 1.0 fWAR rather than the -1.6 they got from Halladay, Miner, and Martin, that's a 2.6 game swing for $4.5 million bucks that did not create a long term contractual obligation or require any contributions from a minor league system that, to paraphrase the old Gauntlet video game, still "needs food badly."

If all goes well, Jesse Biddle and Jonathan Pettibone are on track for the bottom of the rotation in 2015, and Hernandez finds a new home for someone else, or maybe he sticks around for another 1 year deal. If all goes badly, the Phillies aren't out much of anything. Anytime a team has very realistic shot at turning $4.5 million into a 2.5 WAR swing, it is a good bet. It doesn't make them a playoff team, ok? But it is a good idea.

I've liked the Hernandez signing from Day 1 as a low-risk way to improve the bottom of the roster and to pick up marginal wins. I still like it.