The scene is one Livan Hernandez still remembers perfectly…even if it’s been over six years. There he was on his knees, looking skyward and pounding his chest with both fists just seconds after the Florida Marlins had wrapped up the 1997 World Championship. A major contributor to the Marlins’ title run, Hernandez deserved his share of the spotlight in posting four victories in the League Championship Series and World Series combined. Just 22 at the time, the Cuban-born right-hander became the youngest pitcher ever to win a World Series opener. His reward: World Series MVP. But Hernandez has experienced his share of bumps in the road, posting just two winning seasons since 1998. He’s been questioned over the years for his inability to work out of trouble and stay in shape. Last season marked a strong rebound season, though, as Hernandez finished 8th in the majors in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) among all pitchers. On Tuesday he returns to Pro Player Stadium to handle Opening-Day duties against the Marlins. Montreal’s staff ace recently discussed his assignment in Miami, his World Series success and his career in Cuba, among other topics of conversation, with Baseball Prospectus.
Statistics are a tool, not unlike a microscope. Statistics are a hammer, a speculum, a thermometer. A statistics-based approach to understanding of baseball is one of many paths to knowledge of the game. Calling those who take that path “freaks” or “Nazis” makes as much sense as calling a Ph.D. chemist a wimp because he tests the qualities of his cyanide compound by means of Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy rather than just drinking the thing.
Let me count the e-mails asking me about Pedro Martinez’s arm slot and velocity during the game tonight…and probably more on the way. It’s a bit of a change for me, but after working with Tom House this off-season, I’m not worried about arm slot. If everything else is in line, the arm slot will find itself. Pedro’s velocity is only important in relation to his other pitches. He certainly didn’t look great on Sunday night, but one start isn’t something that should start a panic.
The Astros make some final roster changes before Opening Day. Chris Capuano will start the season with the Brewers. And the A’s look for fill-in options at second base after losing Mark Ellis. All this and much more news from Houston, Milwaukee, and Oakland in your Monday edition of Prospectus Triple Play.