Hernandez Done in Colorado?
The easy answer is to look at what Hernandez has done since joining the Rockies. Simply put, he's been miserable -- he lasted just 2.2 innings while allowing 9 earned runs in his first start, went 6 innings and allowed 6 earned runs in his second start, and yesterday allowed 6 more earned runs in 3.2 innings. That's an ERA of 15.32 in three starts. Based on that alone, the answer is clearly no.
Of course, that's the kind of "analysis" that I despise -- looking solely at the results doesn't tell you anything about the process that went into making a decision. Good things can happen to teams that make bad decisions, and bad things can happen to teams that make good decisions. After all, if there's a 99% chance that something will happen, that still means that once out of every 100 times it doesn't happen, and vice versa. In purely economic terms, the person who buys a lottery ticket made a bad investment whether he wins or not. This kind of analysis frustrates some people who prefer to look only at results, but if you don't analyze the process behind the decision-making you don't know whether a team (or GM or Manager or whoever) is consistently making good decisions or is just getting lucky (or, alternatively, if your criteria for evaluating decision-making is flawed).
With that in mind, what do I think of the Rockies decision to get Hernandez? On the one hand, they had nothing to lose. Hernandez didn't cost them a player (a far cry from the year before, when the Rockies inexplicably gave up Matt Macri in exchange for the horrendous Ramon Ortiz), and the prorated portion of his salary (a little over $1.5 million) isn't going to break the bank for a team. The Rockies felt that they needed a pitcher who would give them innings to take some strain off the bullpen -- and following the same logic that caused the Twins to sign Hernandez in the first place, the Rockies pulled the trigger and acquired a player with a reputation for eating innings.
The problem is that the Rockies must have ignored Hernandez's performance in June and July, when he had an ERA well over 6.00. Giving credit where it's due, Hernandez did go 6 innings or more in 7 of his 11 starts during that span -- but if he's giving up 5 or 6 runs consistently in those starts, how valuable is that to a club? Remember, the Rockies started August just 8 games back in an NL West that at the time looked fairly weak. The Dodgers and D-Backs have been playing better of late, but the Rockies are still just 9 back.
Believe it or not, I'm forced to conclude that this wasn't a horrible decision by the Rockies. If you look at the 15.32 ERA, and if you remember how harsh I've been on Hernandez and how vociferously I argued that his performances for the Twins weren't worth a damn, you might wonder how I arrive at this conclusion. Really, though, it's all about expectations and needs.
The Rockies should have expected Hernandez to post a 6.00+ ERA -- he'd been doing it consistently for two months. They could NOT have expected that in three starts he'd be as dreadful as he has been. The Rockies did not have any other options that could have been expected to outperform Hernandez (a significant difference with what the Twins were doing), and since they were down by so many games they had to take a chance that Hernandez would be able to step in and give them a chance to win some games. In fact, they did win in Hernandez's second start, when he gave up 6 runs in 6 innings. If he had been able to regularly post 6 run starts while allowing 4 or 5 runs, the Rockies may have been able to win some ballgames with him starting.
Somewhat surprisingly, then, I find myself in the position of excusing the Rockies. Hernandez was never going to be a stud for them -- but that's not what they needed, and hopefully not what they expected (there was some breathless chatter from the local papers when he was picked up, but I attribute that to media hype and not to the guys who actually do this for a living). Unfortunately for the Rockies, they took a shot and lost.