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Arizona Diamondbacks All-Time Top 50: #45, David Hernandez

Hernandez checks in as the first player on the list to still be actively playing in the majors.

Arizona Diamondbacks  Vs New York Mets Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images
  • Avg ranking (high/low/most common): 40.05 (19/50/40)
  • Seasons: 2011-2015, 2017
  • Stats: 274 games, 252.1 IP, 3.64 ERA, 112 ERA+
  • Best season: 2012 - 72 games, 68.1 IP, 12.9 K/9, 2.50 ERA, 164 ERA+

The winter 2010 arrival of David Hernandez in Arizona was not exactly a cause for celebration for many fans of the Diamondbacks. Yet, for all the ire directed at Kevin Towers for the direction the team went during his tenure as GM of the Diamondbacks, the trade of common fan favourite and slugging third baseman, Mark Reynolds along with a PTBNL (John Hester) for Baltimore’s David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio wound up being a stroke of genius that would change the team’s future for the better.

Unable to establish himself as a reliable starter in Baltimore, Arizona immediately distanced themselves from the notion and inserted David Hernandez into the role of setup man to newly acquired closer, J.J. Putz starting in Spring Training. The result was one of the best 1-2 bullpen combinations in all of baseball not named Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters.Thanks largely to the total lockdown nature of the duo in their first season together, the 2011 Diamondbacks finished first in the NL West, eight games ahead of the San Francisco Giants, before falling in the NLDS to the Milwaukee Brewers*.

As dominant as Hernandez was in 2011, he was even better in 2012. Unfortunately, the Diamondbacks were unable to repeat their 2011 performance and the team finished a somewhat disappointing 81-81.

Then 2013 happened to Hernandez. It started innocent enough. Hernandez had a few early-season struggles, but seemed to still be in the right headspace. Then something, it’s unlikely anyone will know exactly what, went terribly wrong and the wheels fell off the cart for Hernandez. After being serviceable but not spectacular through mid-May, Hernandez became a cause for much angst whenever he was called upon to toe the rubber afterwards. Fans and opposing hitters alike could see that Hernandez was dealing with demons, not all of them baseball related, and the hitters began feasting on him. Fans wondered openly and vocally why Hernandez was not being protected by having the team exercise his final option year. Instead, Kirk Gibson and Charles Nagy continued to run Hernandez out time and again, hoping he could work through his problems (a common theme in the Gibson era). Finally, blessedly, August 10th rolled around and the Diamondbacks’ front office had seen enough struggles. Hernandez was indeed sent back to Reno in order to find some mental relief and to find the mojo he had displayed for the previous two seasons.

In September, the real David Hernandez was back up on the MLB roster as part of the September call-ups. In September of 2013, Hernandez pitched 14.0 innings over 14 outings, striking out 16, walking 4, and allowing only two runs. This gave rise to hopes that Hernandez was once again the closer of the future for the team.

In spring of 2014, Hernandez took the mound with a chip on his shoulder. He wanted to prove that his struggles the previous season were indeed a thing of the past. His spring performance gave credence to that notion, and the team and fans were both looking forward to Hernandez leading the bullpen in 2014. Then, on March 28th, the team learned that David Hernandez’s season was over - he would need Tommy John surgery. The surgery and recovery kept Hernandez on the shelf for all of the 2014 season. He returned to action in June of 2015 with varied results. In November, he was granted free agency.

2017 saw Hernandez return to the Diamondbacks. Hoping to add some stability to the bullpen for the playoff push, Mike Hazen sent minor leaguer, Luis Madero, to the Los Angeles Angels for Hernandez and his 190 ERA+. Home runs wound up being Hernandez’s achilles heel during his few months in Arizona, but he still managed to perform above league average while also providing 1.2 innings of scoreless work in the playoffs.

Hernandez is a free agent for the 2018 season. With the free agent reliever market being what it has been so far, it seems safe to say that Hernandez can look forward to lucrative contract to play for a few more years, probably someplace other than Arizona.