Roberto Hernandez’s Golden Change | The Process Report

Roberto Hernandez’s Golden Change

When the Rays signed Roberto Hernandez nobody knew what to expect. Once a promising young sinkerballer, Hernandez had missed most of the 2012 season due to legal issues. When he did pitch he didn’t pitch well. By most statistical evaluations it was a questionable signing.  Even so R.J. Anderson, Tommy Rancel, and myself looked for a silver lining. There’s reason to believe that, despite an ugly 4.74 ERA, some of it is materializing.

As Rancel mentioned in his series wrap-up post on Sunday, Hernandez currently has the second-highest strikeout percentage on the team, trailing only Matt Moore. He’s struck out 23 percent of the hitters he has faced—a rate six percentage points better than his previous career-high of 17 percent, which came in his rookie season. The primary reason for this increase in strikeouts is the use of his secondary pitches, something Rancel hinted at in reviewing the signing back in December:

Since 2007, batters have swung and missed on 25 percent of swings against Hernandez’s slider and 30 percent of hacks againt his changeup, according to Pitchers with similar whiff rates over the last few seasons include Madison Bumgardner,Matt Cain, and Johnny Cueto (sliders), along with Jake PeavyCliff Lee, and John Danks(changeups). This is not to say Hernandez is as good as those pitchers, but to show that his secondary stuff is worthy of primary usage. Yet for some reason, Hernandez has thrown a variation of the fastball (four-seam and sinker) more than 60 percent of the time with two strikes.

Hernandez’s sequencing, or at least his usage rates, of these pitches have changed. This season Hernandez is throwing 30 percent changeups and 43 percent secondary stuff overall, according to His previous high water marks were 20 percent and 34 percent, respectively, both coming during last year’s shortened season.

Historically, Hernandez has used the changeup three times as often when facing left-handed hitters as he does facing right-handed hitters. That pattern has changed in 2013, especially in favorable counts. Nowadays Hernandez is using his changeup at a nearly equal amount versus lefties and righties. 

These subtle changes in usage patterns is one reason why Hernandez currently leads all of baseball in swings and misses on changeups with 27 (19 of which are classified as pitches chased out of the strike zone).  Hernandez currently has the same rate of whiffs as Jeremy Hellickson does on his changeup. Go by raw totals and Hernandez has thrown the most changeups in baseball at 128; 15 more than Hellickson, 32 more than James Shields, and 35 more than Cole Hamels.


To date Hernandez has held opponents to a .264 wOBA with his changeup and a .178 wOBA with his breaking ball. It’s not too surprising given the quality of the pitches and the improved usage and sequencing at hand. While the early returns have not been golden, the silver linings are now more visible than before.

Stats and maps courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info

One Comment

  1. […] alumnus Tommy Rancel and BP’s Jason Collette dissected Hernandez’s changeup uptick on The Process Report and suggested sequencing benefits I too […]

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