David Hernandez Shuts Down A’s

David Hernandez made what might be the best start of his young career tonight against the A’s, going 6.2 innings and giving up just two runs (a pair of solo home runs) on 6 hits and a walk, while K’ing 6. Those six strike-outs were the most Hernandez has had in a game, and it’s nice to finally see some flashes of the impressive strike-out rates he’s shown in the minors (12.4 K/9 in Triple-A this year, only 4.86 K/9 in the majors coming into this game).  The O’s were able to get him the W by scoring three runs on offense and having the bullpen (Albers, Baez, JJ for the save) hold the lead. Let’s take a look at some Pitch/FX stuff (from Brooks Baseball).

Here’s the break on his pitches:

His fastball is more of the high riding variety, and it didn’t have much run on it (usually it’s about average in that respect). He did have his usual 93+ mph velocity though, and got several swings and misses on it.  The change-up had it’s usual slightly below average movement, but it got a few swings and misses as well. His breaking-balls are split into sliders (harder, less sink) and curveballs (slower, more sink), though I don’t know if it’s legitimately two different pitches. In any case, those pitches have good horizontal movement and some of them really get a lot of overall break. Of some concern though, is that not a single one of those 18 breaking-balls was swung on and missed.  It was taken for a strike three times and fouled of three more (one of which was a foul-tip caught for a third strike), but if guys won’t swing and miss it then it won’t function very well as a strike-out pitch (which, since I haven’t looked at that for his previous starts, may have something to do with his low strike-out rate). [Edit: Going back through his last three starts I only saw one breaking-ball that was swung on and missed.  I though the scouting report was that Hernandez had a really good slider?]

Anyway, here’s the location chart:

I like those four change-ups at the knees, but there were sure a lot of pitches up in the zone.  All those sliders and curveballs in the middle of the zone and higher may explain the lack of swings and misses on those pitches.  The slider should start at the knees and break down out of the zone, not start at the letters and break down to be belt high.

You can’t complain with the results though, and I think David Hernandez proved tonight that he can be a successful major league starter.