The Houston Astros, at present, are not a good baseball team. They are a bad baseball team. They might be the worst baseball team. But even bad baseball teams need to make low-profile moves, and on Tuesday, the Astros have apparently made a pretty low-profile move. Ken Rosenthal:
Source: #Astros sign Livan Hernandez.
Hernandez deal with #Astros is a minor-league contract.
The report has since been confirmed by Jon Heyman. Hernandez is Houston-bound, or at least Houston organization-bound.
Hernandez is 36. Pretty soon he'll turn 37. His right arm might as well be 100. Since 1998, Hernandez hasn't started fewer than 29 major league games in a season, and he's second among active pitchers in career innings behind Tim Wakefield, who might shortly decide to no longer be active. He's first among active pitchers in career starts. Second among active pitchers in career complete games, third among active pitchers in career home runs allowed, first among active pitchers in career hits allowed...
Hernandez is a durable son of a bitch. He just won't not pitch. He's far removed from his career peak, as you'd expect, but the last three years with the Mets and Nationals, he's put up a 90 ERA+ over 93 starts. He doesn't do anything exceptionally well besides stay healthy and eat innings, but there's value in a guy who can stay healthy and eat innings without being absolutely terrible. Hernandez isn't absolutely terrible.
Incidentally, here's the Livan Hernandez writeup from Baseball Prospectus 2002:
Hernandez's improved control helped him post perhaps his best season in 2000. It wasn't as good in 2001, and his strikeout rate declined even further, although he stayed in the rotation and threw his usual 200-odd innings. We've been predicting doom for so long it's almost cliché to do so again, but the signs of collapse are evident.
Here's Jamie Moyer, from 2001:
The end is near. Jamie Moyer’s ERA was 7.41 over the last two months of the season, when his arm angle dropped and he couldn’t get a good downward plane on his pitches. Though an injury was suspected, he never admitted to it. There is a school of thought that says pitchers who don’t throw hard can pitch forever, but if that were true, Randy Jones would have been on the mound when the Padres shed their mustard uniforms. Piniella is intensely loyal to his veterans, so Moyer will be given every opportunity to find his old form.
Still going. Both of them, still f***ing going. It's crazy. They don't end!
What we don't know is whether Hernandez will break camp as a member of the Astros' rotation. He'll face competition - younger competition - and his string of seasons with at least 29 major league starts might be in jeopardy. We've probably all learned a little something about doubting Livan Hernandez, though. Rain or shine, he'll be there, pitching. He won't necessarily pitch very well, but he'll pitch for a while.