With his ridiculously impressive strikeout numbers, Darwinzon Hernandez has the potential to emerge as the most valuable Red Sox reliever.
As the date for pitchers and catchers reporting nears, the Boston Red Sox pitching staff is a huge question mark. Chaim Bloom went out and made a bunch of moves for arms, although none of those moves were anything significant. It was more of a quantity over quality thing, getting guys such as Josh Osich, Martin Perez, Austin Brice, Chris Mazza, and Matt Hall. None of those names pop out at you, which is the point. It’s more of a throw at the wall and figure at least one of those many options will stick, kind of strategy.
Although it was smart to go out and get all those guys, the Red Sox already have someone who, in my eyes, has proven himself to be an elite reliever in the big leagues. That man’s name is Darwinzon Hernandez.
Hernandez made his debut last April with an impressive outing, striking out four batters in 2 1/3 innings. After being sent back and forth from the minors to the big league team, Hernandez would be called up for good on July 16, and would finish his 2019 campaign with a 4.45 ERA in 30 1/3 innings. From that alone, you may be wondering how this man can be elite. But if you started to dig a little deeper into the data, it’s pretty clear how much potential the big lefty from Venezuela has got.
Starting with his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) which is a better indicator than someone’s ERA, it was 2.75 in 2019. Right away, that gives you an indication that Hernandez was on the unlucky side of things on the mound.
Now comes the biggest concern with Hernandez, his command and control. He doesn’t always exactly know where the ball is going out of his hand, but as far as his stuff goes? It is off the charts. His fastball is explosive with late movement on it, to go along with a changeup and curveball that can be, at times, untouchable.
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The most prominent problem with Hernandez is the walks. In 2019, he walked 26 batters in his 30 1/3 innings, That’s close to a walk an inning. That can be a problem. However, his strikeout numbers? 57 of them in 30 1/3 innings. That’s close to two per inning. He had a 38.8% K rate, which was not too far off from the strikeout king, Josh Hader over in Milwaukee who had a 47.8% K rate.
Taking a look at some of the other elite relievers in the league, Hernandez actually had a better K rate than Liam Hendriks over in Oakland, who was arguably the best of the best in 2019. His 16.9 strikeouts per nine was also very impressive, and just goes to show how talented he can be at limiting contact.
A big factor into that 4.45 ERA is the fact that Hernandez, like we mentioned above, got really unlucky. His .433 BABIP (Batting Average On Balls In Play) is due to regress. His batted ball stats were really good as well, with a 32.8% hard contact rate, which was better than both elite relievers I mentioned above.
To sum it all up, Hernandez has tons of potential to be the Red Sox relief ace. If he can find a little more command, the league better watch out. With his ridiculous strikeout numbers along with his ability to limit hard contact, I have really high hopes for this man. We’ll see what happens during Spring Training with all the other options Chaim Bloom is looking at, but watch out for Darwinzon Hernandez in 2020.