Every year it seems, a 30-something-year-old player inexplicably locates the fountain of youth. Last year it was Kevin Millwood , though he appears unwilling to revert back to his old ways this season.

The 2010 version may very well be 15-year veteran Livan Hernandez .

Through four starts this season with the Nationals, Hernandez boasts both an ERA and WHIP of a minuscule 0.87. Opponents are batting just .187 against the right-hander, and he has lasted at least seven innings in each start.

To wrap your head around Hernandez’s early season success, it’s important to understand just how bad he’s been each of the last two seasons.

In 31 starts with the Rockies and Twins in 2008, Hernandez posted a 6.05 ERA and 1.67 WHIP, with just 67 strikeouts (3.35 K/9) in 180 innings.

2009 brought much of the same, as Hernandez split time with the Mets and Nationals, yielding a 5.44 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 183 2/3 innings, though it came with an improved strikeout rate of 5.0 K/9.

In other words, Hernandez had been terrible, unworthy of being owned in even the deepest of leagues.

So that’s it? Should we completely dismiss his 3-1 start to 2010?

Not quite.

If we dig a bit deeper, we find that Hernandez’s BABIP (.345 in ‘08, .326 in ‘09) was unusually high . Likewise, his stand rate was exceptionally low (64.8 percent in ‘08, 67.3 percent in ‘09) compared to his career mark of 72.2 percent.

Hernandez’s FIP (4.94 in ‘08, 4.44 in ‘09) also supports this “bad luck” theory.

Given these totals, it may not be completely irrational to buy a bounce-back season for Hernandez. Granted, the 0.87 ERA is guaranteed to rise, meaning an implosion is likely on the horizon. (His next scheduled start—Tuesday versus the Braves—could be the first, as Braves’ regulars are a combined 45-for-131 (.343) lifetime against Hernandez).

Assuming you’re able to side step the inevitable pounding every once in a while, Hernandez might just be a serviceable option in 2010. In fact, the last time he posted a sub-4.00 ERA was in 2005, his last full season with the Nationals.

If anything, the former Marlin, Giant, Expo, National, Diamondback, Twin, Rocky and Met is extremely durable, posting no less than 180 innings in each of the last 12 seasons.

Owning a pitcher like the 35-year-old Hernandez can be risky, but given ample preparation (checking batter/pitcher and ballpark histories), Hernandez can be a useful spot starter. Just don’t expect much contribution to the strikeout category.

FBI Forecast: 190 IP, 14 W, 100 K, 4.00 ERA, 1.40 WHIP


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