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Cuban Magic

Mike SteffanosSunday, August 26, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Mets 5 - Dodgers 2
Played Saturday, August 25, 2007

After pitching another 7 brilliant innings against the Dodgers yesterday, Orlando Hernandez is one win away from becoming the fourth New York Mets starter to achieve double-figures in victories. Think back to the spring, when the Mets were being mocked in the media for their rotation and picked to finish second or third in the division. It may not have always been a smooth ride with the pitching, but the starting pitching has been arguably the story of 2007. And El Duque has been the great story of the starting rotation.

I was pretty optimistic about Hernandez coming into the season. I based this on the fact that, since missing the 2003 season with injuries, the veteran Cuban has shown signs of actually getting stronger every year with higher innings totals. Last season, after that little August hiatus, he was pitching his best ball of the season, and that was a great sign. While any older pitcher is somewhat of a gamble, I honestly felt that his fragility was being dramatically overplayed by the local and national pundits. When El Duque went on the DL in late April with bursitis, we were reading all sorts of dire predictions for a prolonged absence. But he was back a month later tossing a shutout over the Marlins. He hasn't looked back since. Turns out I wasn't quite optimistic enough this spring, I guess.

Hernandez' numbers are staggering. His 3.07 ERA is tenth best in baseball. He has only allowed 94 hits in 138 IP. His .194 AVG against is second among all pitchers who qualify for the ERA title. The most important number of all, however, is that the Mets are 16-6 in his 22 starts.

There were many teams that shelled out big bucks for younger pitchers who only wish they received what the Mets have from Hernandez for 2 years/$11.5 million -- virtual chump change in today's pitching market. When Omar Minaya takes the heat for an admittedly weak off-season of trades, too many of the critics fail to point out that his decisions to re-sign El Duque and trust John Maine and Oliver Perez have all been sound.

Orlando Hernandez (Last 5 Starts)
Season (22 Games)13850479412055183.071.0816-6

View Orlando Hernandez' Full Season Stats

Box Score

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (2)

I have to say I was slightly skeptical at first too. I knew he was a "big game pitcher", but thought he might take some time in the summer to regroup and revitalize. It turns out that he has been the best pitcher they have had all season. Maine was great in the first half, but has faultered some, Perez has been brilliant and then seemed a bit shaky, and Glavine is hit and miss, thank God he has been mostly a hit. The fifth spot has killed the Mets chances at prolonged win streaks, besides the June-July offensive swoon. But I cannot complain, although I would like them to run off about 8 or 9 in a row, they are in 1st by 6, with a chance to increase that in the following 7 games against the East rivals. I feel very confident when El-Duque takes the mound. He has almost been as dominating as he was early on with the Yanks. He has been a stopper and a stabilizer for the rotation. Good foresight from Omar.

L. J. - He's an amazing pitcher. I wish I could have seen him when he was young and still bringing the mid-90s heat. Sure wouldn't want to try to hit against him.

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