Former Major Leaguer Enzo Hernandez Passes
Former major leaguer Enzo Hernandez died today at age 63 at his home in Venezuela of an apparent suicide. If I had to guess, I would say that he probably had serious health problems that led to his sad ending.
To the extent that anyone remembers Hernandez as a major league baseball player today, it is as a result of his utter futility at driving in runs as the rookie shortstop for the 1971 San Diego Padres. At least, that is what first came to mind when I read about his passing this evening.
Hernandez drove in only 12 runs that year in 618 plate appearances. In 549 at-bats he had twelve extra base hits, nine doubles and three triples. He hit .222 on the season with a .250 slugging percentage.
The only other regular player to drive in only twelve runs in a season is the aptly named Goat Anderson, who in his only major league season with the 1907 Pittsburgh Pirates, drove in twelve in 510 plate appearances. Goat only hit .206 and slugged only .225 that year. He had only five extra base hits: three doubles and triple and home run. At least, Goat reached this ignominious achievement in the Dead Ball Era and in more than 100 plate appearances fewer than Enzo Hernandez.
One thing to be said both for Enzo and Goat — in spite of their complete inability to hit the ball with authority, they both got on base a lot more than you’d ever expect from such weak batters. Enzo walked 54 times in 1971, and Goat walked an astounding 80 times in 1907. Both stole over twenty bases, and both scored a lot more runs than they drove in: Enzo 58, Goat 73.
Hernandez went on to play in eight major league seasons. While he never got 618 plate appearances or 549 ABs in a season again, he drove in more than 12 runs four times, peaking at 34 RBIs in 1974, his only other season in which he played more than 120 games.
Hernandez must have been a pretty good glove man at short, given the fact that he finished his eight year career with a .224 batting average and .550 OPS in more than 2,600 plate appearances. However, Enzo never led the National League in any primary fielding category, and his 33 errors in 1971 tied Giants’ shortstop Chris Speier, also a rookie, for the most in MLB that year.
Perhaps Hernandez’s relatively long career says more about the ineptitude of the early 1970’s Padres than it does about his defensive abilities.