Hernandez has almost entirely eliminated his changeup, which had previously seen about 3% usage. It averaged 89.2 mph in 2019.
Hernandez’s curveball has inched back up to an average of 82.3 mph with 2341 rpm, and tends to sweep across the plate rather than drop. Its movement did fall off in 2019, leading to a drop in SwStr to 15.9%. But its zone rate jumped all the way to 52.4%, and with an O-swing of 46.7%, it was a money pitch. Its -3.6 pVAL was likely tied to its .550 BABIP, but its .345 ISO could signify that bad luck was not the only factor at play.
Holding steady at an average of 93.5 mph, Hernandez’s fastball put up a 9.9% SwStr en route to a 24% K rate. But an 11.5% BB rate was a problem, and hard contact pushed the pVAL down to -4.6.
Added in 2017, Hernandez’s slider has seen excellent results since, posting a 22.0% SwStr in 2019 alongside a 42.0 O-swing%. His 38.8% zone rate, down 14 points from 2018, was the only thing keeping it from retaining money pitch status. A slight uptick in extra base hits pushed its pVAL down to 0.7 from 4.4.
With decent but not great velocity and armside movement, Hernandez’s workhorse pitch isn’t overpowering, but it still gets the job done. The BABIP indicates there may have been a little bit of luck involved, but the fourseamer gave up just a .214 BAA and held opposing batters to an OPS of .661, while keeping fly balls and home runs to a minimum. The K% and low whiff rate means there’s going to be a lot of balls put into play, so there could be some regression coming.
A Money Pitch in 2017, Hernandez’s curve sniffed that territory again last year, just barely falling short of 40% in chase and zone rates. The results, on the other hand, point more toward the pitch being broken. The pitch induced fewer than 20% grounders as opposing hitters swatted an ISO of .240. It was still a stellar strikeout pitch, but a loss in vertical movement may have allowed some batters key in.
It’s a small sample, but the slider was a surprise Money Pitch for Hernandez last year, posting a chase rate of 42%, zone rate of 51% and swinging strike rate of 19%. It’s no surprise then that the pitch led a ton of weak contact, resulting in a .161 BAA and just one longball despite a fly ball rate over 60%. He’s only throwing the pitch about 20% of the time, but it’s a nice complement to his fourseamer.
If a pitch accumulates no stats, was it even really thrown? Hernandez tossed his changeup sparingly last year, resulting in no hits, no strikeouts and no walks. You’d question its existence if it weren’t for the single routine grounder and fly ball that ended two at bats last year. Otherwise, it’s clearly nothing more than a situational pitch for the veteran reliever.