Monday, January 19, 2009

#7 -- Enzo Hernandez

Enzo Hernandez

I don’t know why Enzo has a bat in this card. It’s not like he ever used it. He was one of the worst hitters in the 70’s. In 1971 he had one of the all-time worst seasons. In 603 plate appearances he had 12 RBI. His teammate, Nate Colbert, had 13 in a doubleheader. About all you can say for Enzo is that he had good speed and walked more than he struck out. If he were in Tony LaRussa’s lineup, the pitcher would definitely hit 8th. He didn't start off as a bad hitter. He went 2-3 with a walk in his major league debut, getting half of the Padre hits that day against some guy named Carlton with the Cardinals.

In fact, the Padre lineup is the only one in 1971 where Enzo did do better in the RBI department than the pitchers….just barely. The Padre pitchers only had 8 RBI, but they only had 346 at bats, so they probably even had a better ratio. For comparison, the Red Sox pitchers had 8 homers and 42 RBI in 406 at bats and the Cub pitchers had 8 homers and 35 RBI in 426 at bats. Mind you, Enzo probably didn’t have a lot of RBI possibilities as he was hitting leadoff most of the year. Let that sink in. Enzo Hernandez was a leadoff hitter. That meant he had the 8th place catcher (Bob Barton or Fred Kendall) and the pitcher hitting in front of him. Any other team still gets at least 20 RBI from its leadoff spot. But not when your leadoff hitter’s name is Enzo.

Enzo picked up the pace in 1972 with 15 RBI and a homer off Jim Willoughby of the Giants in Candlestick on the last day of the year. He went 4-5 in that game to raise his 1972 season average to .195. If George Brett had been playing in 1972 we could have the "Enzo Line" instead of the Mendoza Line.

Enzo had good speed. Bob Skinner is a good baseball man, playing with the Pirates and coaching for many years. As we approach Spring Training, we’ll see interviews where many players will be complimented incredibly. However, Skinner may have an all-timer here: “If he could get on base often enough, I think he could break Maury Wills’ record (for stolen bases).” Yeah, and if he could get enough balls over the wall, he could have broken Babe Ruth’s record while he’s at it. If there were ever a Futility Infielder, Enzo would be it.

I know I've kind of ragged on Enzo. He was a good base stealer and a league average shortstop with good range. He always ranked at the top of the league in sacrifice bunts and he didn't strike out, so Enzo was one of those guys who we don't see anymore. He had the fundamentals down, but didn't swing from the heels. He's also well thought of in his native Venezuela, as one of the stadiums the ballclubs play in down there is Stadio Enzo Hernandez del tigre edo anzoategui (I cut and pasted that from a Caribbean Series website and have no idea what it says. I apologize in advance for offending anyone.)

1972 Feature
Baseball purists come in all types. Some don't like the wild card. Some think the league lost something in the 1961 expansion. Some thought it was wrong to lower the mound and juice up the ball. Some bristle at interleague play. I probably swing more to the old-fashioned purist. Not to say that there should only be 16 teams that wear flannel uniforms and travel on trains. I can handle some expansion, but we're at the absolute limit now. I don't really like the wild card or interleague play, but I can tolerate it because I love baseball.

I like Hal McRae, Tommy Davis, David Ortiz, Edgar Martinez, etc. But I don't like the designated hitter. For me, that leaves 1972 as the last "pure" season because it's the last time we didn't have it. I remember the debate leading up to the DH. Actually, it was widely called the DPH (Designated Pinch Hitter), but that became unwieldy.

I will say that the DH has given some guys more time. Tommy Davis, Orlando Cepeda and Tony Oliva are the best examples of guys the DH gave more time starting in 1973. Tommy Davis was practically out of the league. Cepeda also, getting only 87 at bats in 1972, but getting 550 with the Red Sox as their DH in 1973. Oliva tore his knee up after 28 at bats in 1972, but the DH gave him 3 more years he would have struggled through.

Still, I'd rather see the pitchers bat.


  1. I don't know that the initials were used much, but I do remember the term "Designated Pinch Hitter" being around for a year or so.

  2. You are doing an awesome job on this blog so far!

  3. Agreed on the DH. For me it removes too many key elements of baseball strategy. And the worst is that it allows pitchers to throw at a guy's head (Roger Clemens, the worst offender) without consequences.