Friday, August 08, 2008

A Beloved Player Moves Out of the Midwest

I speak, of course, of Livan Hernandez, who was picked up by the Colorado Rockies after the Twins decided that the only way to make room for Francisco Liriano was to get rid of Hernandez. I thought that was a shame, because Hernandez was the only guy with any real experience in the entire rotation, and there are some jackasses in the bullpen under the marshmallow dome that don't deserve to be big leaguers (Brian Bass, I'm looking at you. You too, Breslow).

At my office, there's a punk kid (I call people in their mid-20's punk kids now. Dammit, I'm getting older quicker than I would like) who basically suggested I had been hit in the head with a hammer when I opined that someone besides Livan should have been moved to make room for Liriano. I tried to explain myself, but I failed spectacularly, because when it comes to speaking presentations, I am kind of crap. I'm not much better when it comes to the written word, so I'll quote extensively from what Britt Robson (we love us our Britt Robson round these parts) wrote on July 31st, which ended up being Livan's last start for the Twins (another bad start for him, giving up 5 runs, 9 hits, 2 walks in all of 4 innings)

Said Britt about Livan:

First of all, through the first six weeks of the season, he went 6-1 with a 3.90 ERA, enabling pitching coach Rick Anderson to sort through his youngsters with a little more patience knowing that he had a veteran stopper on the mound to prevent things from going too far off track. That by itself made Hernandez a better investment than Sidney Ponson and Russ Ortiz combined the previous season. Second, although Hernandez has been increasingly hit harder, he's been eating a lot of innings--he's got 143 and 2/3, with Nick Blackburn's 127 next-most and the rest of the starters not yet at 100. That means if the Twins stay in the pennant race and need to tax their young arms, they may be able to do so (with the possible exception of Blackburn) without worrying about blowing them out. Glen Perkins has never pitched more than 132 innings in a season at any level and Blackburn's career high is 160. Baker has gone 190 and between Rochester and Minnesota last year, Slowey reached 200. With 55 games left to play for the five-man rotation and hopes that they'd average at least six innings per start, that's an extra 66 innings apiece (if they each start 11 times). Baker and Slowey can handle it, Perkins, maybe. But without Livan's 144 (minus 1/3), a bunch of pitchers in their mid-20s get pushed, and the odds of arm injuries rise.

What Britt doesn't say is that those increased innings are also a worry because of the increasingly unreliable bullpen. Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, and Brian Bass have all blown games in recent memory. Hell, even good ole Spazzy Joe Nathan gave up a lead (in a rare 8th inning appearance, which speaks volumes right there) against lowly Seattle. This bullpen used to be clockwork--Guerrier in the 7th, Neshek in the 8th, Nathan in the 9th. Lately, the bullpen has been troubling, and showing up earlier in games. Knowing you had a guy like Hernandez, who yes, might lose you the game in the first two innings, but could still pitch for the next 6, was somewhat of a luxury.

Livan got shellacked by some very good teams in his last few starts, and while I wouldn't want him over Francisco Liriano, I did like the idea of having one pitcher in the rotation over 26 years of age. I don't see him getting more unhittable in Colorado, of all places, but I do wish that old fat bastard the best of luck. He was a key component to this unlikely Twins run, and he should get credit for that.

Also, remember to hit Britt's blog for his Twins Roundtable with himself, Brad Zellar, and David Brauer--I don't think there is a city in the nation that has 3 smarter, more insightful sportswriters. Of course, none of these guys wrote for "Major" print media in the Twin Cities. But they know their shit, and it is a fascinating read.

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