David Hernandez is a vital cog to the success of the Arizona Diamondbacks. His role as the primary set-up man, might be modified this season with the addition of Heath Bell to the bullpen, but he is a proven performer in important ball games and one player that manager Kirk Gibson can count on to bridge the gap to closer J.J. Putz.
Hernandez is coming off of his two best seasons since being converted from a starter in Baltimore to a bullpen weapon in Arizona. He came to Arizona in the deal that sent Mark Reynolds to the Orioles. In Baltimore, Hernandez had his struggles as a starter. He was 12-18 as a starter over two seasons with a 4.93 ERA. He always possessed a devastating fastball (94-97 mph) and a good slider (87-89 mph) with late break, but had trouble dialing it in over longer innings. He walked more batters and had trouble with his consistency as a starter. In 2011, the 27-year-old right hander appeared in 74 games for the D’backs, posting a 5-3 record with a 3.38 ERA. The hard-throwing Hernandez struck out 77 batters in 69 1/3 innings, proving that when you needed a reliever to come in and miss some bats to leave runners on base, he could be your guy. He also collected 11 saves, proving that if necessary, he could close out games as well. In 2012, Hernandez was slotted into the same role of 8th inning set-up man and he proved that his 2011 season was not a fluke. He amassed a 2-3 record but improved his ERA (2.50) and struck out more hitters (98) in one less inning of work (68 1/3 IP). His strikeout to walk ratio was massively impressive (4.45-1), he improved his Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched or WHIP (1.1-1.0) and his Wins Above Replacement rating was a 1.7, which is solid for a reliever.
Hernandez was honored for his achievements this off-season as he was asked to play with Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. He accepted the invite and as he will team with Giants closer Sergio Romo, giving them a devastating finishing duo to contend with. For the D’backs in 2013, Hernandez and Bell could potentially share the 8th inning set-up role if Bell can revert back to his previous All-Star form. Bell could also work the 7th and share time there with Brad Ziegler on occasion. Hernandez has settled into the set-up role and I would not move him. If his statistical trajectory is any indication of what is form may be this season, expect even bigger things from the flame throwing reliever during this campaign.