2016 Phillies Report Card: David Hernandez
In the full-season bullpen shuffle from which Pete Mackanin was forced to fill his late innings, only three relievers posed as year-long possibilities: Hector Neris, whose report card Tim Guenther wrote last week, Jeanmar Gomez, whom I will profile in a few weeks, and David Hernandez.
Hernandez’s 72.2 innings of work tied for the 15th most thrown by a reliever in the National League, not necessarily an ideal situation for Mackanin, but sadly more reliable than the majority of the one-in-one-out candidates that more accurately resembled a slow-moving line at the local overcrowded college bar than a functioning bullpen.
With a slightly above average ERA for a reliever (3.84 compared to the 3.93 league average) and slightly below average FIP (4.32 compared to a 3.99 league average), Hernandez’s 2016 season – the lone year of a one-year deal signed in December 2015 – was essentially a large helping of meh.
But a one-year rental of an average relief arm no doubt helped an otherwise morbid relief contingent. David Hernandez was, all things considered, beneficial for the bullpen. Take that in. Chew on it. Then spit it out, and, by the end of this report card, never again waste a moment’s thought on him.
As average as his 2016 performance may have been, it was only so due to his ability to strand runners on base better than any of his seven previous major league seasons. With a 83.7 LOB% (anything above 80 LOB% falls into Fangraphs’ “Excellent” bucket), Hernandez stranded base runners at a higher clip than any reliever on the club, inning minimums be damned, and finished 18 of 129 relievers in 2016 who threw at least 50 innings. Hernandez’s ability to minimize damage after allowing base runners – more a factor of luck than a repeatable skill year in and year out – likely contributed to the difference between his FIP and ERA.
A good final month boosted his stats like a garbage time dump-off down two touchdowns against a prevent defense, only possible by further base runner-stranding magic. Opponents slashed .286/.375/.405 in 10.2 innings in September and October, but just two scored and 96.4% of runners were left on base. While the impact of his lucky 2016 tendencies may earn him a few more dollars in free agency, it is more like an aberration than a sign of things to come.
As they say, C’s get degrees. I’ll give David Hernandez a C+, admittedly only because the lack of competence surrounding him made his presence (slightly) more apparent. He’ll leave Philly with a degree in hand, but no glowing recommendations from Mackanin, Bob McClure, nor any other front office professors.