My first reaction was a bit of a groan, when I heard from Ken Rosenthal that the Astros had signed Livan Hernandez, formerly of the Washington Nationals. Never fear, this is a minor-league contract and is a solid punt into the grass by Jeff Luhnow.
A bit of quick statistical analysis shows at age 37, Hernandez may still have it. In his last two seasons, Hernandez has wildly different ERA's, 3.66 in 2010, 4.47 in 2011, but these are down to a rise in BABIP and a few extra home runs. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) has actually been steady as a rock, checking in at 3.95 and 3.96 over the last two seasons.
More to follow after the jump.
Hernandez is one of the rare pitchers who has suceeded with a very slow fastball, rarely getting out of the 84-85mph zone (Dallas Keuchel take note). It is hard to argue with a move which basically has no risks attached, and while some might criticise the front office's lack of ambition, continuing to pile even more rotation candidates on them, competition is never a bad thing, and unless you are worried about blocking legitimate pitching prospects, and think that in the process you could damage their development, then only good can come of it.
More interesting is that Luhnow is not following the sort of train the Marlins went on where they threw as many rookies against the wall and saw how many stuck. He is trying to shape a team from what is available, the best he can put on the field with meagre resources. Just having Hernandez at Spring Training might be a boon, considering how full pitching coach Doug Brocail's hands are going to be. If the youngsters need advice, guidance, whatever, he has been around the block enough times to know a few things about pitching.
Does this mean Jordan Lyles will begin the season at AAA? Does this move make it more likely? At this point, at 21, Lyles is still well ahead of the curve, and if he can gain more polish with Burt Hooton and come up with Jarred Cosart after the trade deadline, hopefully as a better pitcher, I am fine with that.
Really, there is no point in getting too hung up on this move, when you remember all the starts we tossed to Brian Moehler over the past few years...