Hernandez’s changeup continued its drop in velocity, averaging 85.1 mph in 2019 and returning a career-high 95 WRC+ on the pitch. Its SwStr% (11.1), O-swing% (31.5), and pVAL (-5.1) were all either career worsts or trailed only his rookie season. It also registered its worst career BABIP at .341.
In 2019, the only mark on Hernandez’s Statcast sliders that was not deep blue was his curveball spin, which came in at 2441 rpm. It was his primary pitch in 2019 by usage and notched its highest zone rate since 2008. Its lowest Z-contact since 2012 in turn kept the SwStr% roughly in line with career marks at 11.2 and earned him a 3.4 pVAL.
After dropping from 92.8 mph to 91.1 mph after the 2015 season, Hernandez’s fastball has been largely the same and averaged 90.4 mph in 2019. The bad news? Its SwStr (4.1%), O-swing (10.6%), and WRC+ (349) were career worsts. The good news? Its usage dropped to just 7.5%, making it his least used pitch.
In 2019, Hernandez’s slider notched its best SwStr% in a decade (15.2), powered by its best Z-contact in the same time span (78.8%). Its fly-ball rate was also nearly double his career mark at 50%, and its HR/FB late was below 10%. What changed? He added 1.5 mph and pushed the spin up to 2317 rpm. The results was a 64 WRC+, third best of his career.
Hernandez’s sinker was by far his worst pitch in 2018. He allowed above-average contact across the board, 11 home runs overall, and a 20% HR/FB rate. Batters only had a 3.6% swinging-strike rate against the pitch, and Hernandez also had a higher walk rate than a K rate with the sinker. Opposing hitters posted a .329 BA and .248 ISO against the pitch Hernandez threw more than any other last season.
King Felix has transformed himself into a finesse pitcher, and his curveball has become his most dominant pitch. In 2018, he amassed an above-average 10.2% swinging-strike rate and an excellent 27.3% K rate. Even though he allowed a HR/FB rate of 17.1% on the pitch, he still only allowed a .154 ISO because he was able to limit the quality of contact overall..
True to his reputation, Hernandez’s changeup was one of his most-effective pitches in 2018 and one of his go-to pitches to get strikeouts. He finished with an excellent 26.7% strikeout rate and 13.9% swinging-strike rate on the pitch. He was also able to get batters to chase the pitch with success, producing a 58.7% O-contact rate. Hernandez also did a good job of limiting hard contact with the changeup, holding batters to a .130 ISO and an extremely high 25.9 infield fly ball (pop-up) rate. The pitch wound up as slightly below average overall in large part to the high 14.8% HR/FB rate against it.
Hernandez’s four-seam fastball barely reached 90 mph and was an extremely below-average pitch in 2018 for the fourth year in a row. Hernandez generated a low 4.9% swinging-strike rate, which is half the league average. He also amassed a 20% walk rate and a .245 ISO with the pitch, making it ineffective in almost every situation. Batters also made above-average contact on the pitch both in and outside the strike zone, so Hernandez was unable to make batters miss on the pitch or make weak contact when it was hit.
King Felix’s slider was basically a league-average pitch in 2018. It produced a below-average 6.2% swinging-strike rate and an extremely low 9.4% strikeout rate. The pitch was not a below-average one because Hernandez limited batters to a 6.3 walk rate and a low .174 BABIP. Felix maintained a league-average contact rate on sliders thrown out of the zone but was hurt on sliders thrown in the strike zone, allowing a 95% Z-contact rate. He lost a few miles per hour on this pitch in 2018, which decreased its effectiveness.