The Cincinnati Reds have signed right handed reliever David Hernandez to a 2-year, $5M deal. The 32-year-old split his season last year with the Angels and Diamondbacks. His season was a tale of two halves. With the Angels he posted a 2.23 ERA in 36.1 innings. He didn’t allow a single home run. But, when he moved to the National League and a much more hitter friendly environment in Arizona his ERA jumped up to 4.82 in 18.2 innings and he allowed four home runs.
Since returning from Tommy John surgery and missing all of the 2014 season, David Hernandez has a 3.68 ERA in 161.1 innings. He has walked 52 batters with 165 strikeouts and given up 21 home runs. In 2015 and 2017 his walk rate was good and outstanding. In 2016 his walk rate was more in line with the earlier part of his career and higher than you want to see. He has missed bats at a good rate throughout his career and 2017 was no different. Last season he struck out 24.3% of the batters he faced.
If there’s a concern to be had with David Hernandez, it’s probably his home run rate. Outside of his time in the spacious confines in Anaheim, since returning from Tommy John surgery he’s allowed 21 home runs in 125.0 innings. That’s a 1.52 HR/9-innings pitched rate. In a home run park like Great American Ballpark, that’s worrisome.
Earlier in his career he was an extreme fly ball pitcher. He was able to get away from that in 2017 a little bit, posting a ground ball rate of 42%. It was the first time in his career he was ever over 40%. His fly ball rate will be worth keeping an eye on over the next two years.
Ideally, you’d like to get the David Hernandez who is going to walk no one and miss plenty of bats like you saw in 2017. You would also like to see that version that wasn’t a fly ball machine. But, if the reliever sees his walk rate dip back to 2016 rates, or earlier in his career rates, that could be an issue. Likewise, if his ground ball rate dips below 40% again, it could also be an issue.