Hall Watch 2005-Tim Hudson

Wednesday, March 01 2006 @ 02:00 PM EST

Contributed by: Mike Green

Ace? Check. Winner? Check. Dominating? Not exactly, but two out of three aint bad. After a solid year in 2005 with the Braves, Tim Hudson is probably the best current starter in mid-career if we count Pettitte and Pedro Martinez as being in late career. Does he have a chance at the Hall?

Hudson is a prime example of a successful "college pitcher with low upside" draft. He was chosen in the sixth round by the A's out of Auburn in 1997 after being chosen as the college player of the year. He dominated low A that summer in 8 games. He followed that up in 1998 by dominating high A (1.67 ERA in 37 innings with 48 strikeouts) and earning a promotion to double A where he met his first resistance. He put in 22 serviceable, but unexciting, starts. 1999 was his year. Three dominating starts in double A, eight similar ones in triple A and then a promotion to the Show where he went 11-2 in 21 starts with 132 strikeouts in 136 innings. That might very well have been his peak.

From 2000 to 2004, he was consistently good, posting fine ERAs and delightful won-loss records, but there have been signs of regression. His control has always been good, but his strikeout rate has fallen from almost 9 per 9IP to about 5. After 2004, Billy Beane sent him to the Braves for Juan Cruz, Dan Meyer and Charles Thomas. The deal has worked out well for the Braves so far, as Hudson gave them a good year in 2005, but he missed significant time with a left oblique injury as he had in 2004.

Hudson's top 2 comparables according to bbref.com are Jack McDowell, and Dennis Leonard, both of whom fell off a cliff at age 30. His third closest comparable is Mike Mussina who has aged gracefully. We'll throw in Andy Pettitte, so that we have another contemporary. Here's how they fared through age 29:

Pitcher   IP(seasons)   ERA+   K/9IP(Lg)   W/9IP(Lg)  HR/9IP(Lg)  Team DER(Lg)  W-L

Hudson    1432.7(6.2)   136    6.4(6.5)    2.8(3.5)   0.7(1.1)    687(689)      106-48
McDowell  1561.3(6.5)   115    6.2(5.9)    2.9(3.6)   0.7(1.0)    697(691)      106-68
Leonard   1597.0(5.5)   108    5.7(4.8)    2.6(3.4)   0.8(0.8)    704(701)      110-73
Mussina   1568.7(6.6)   129    6.6(6.0)    2.1(3.6)   1.0(1.1)    683(683)      118-59
Pettitte  1449.7(6.1)   116    6.2(6.2)    3.1(3.8)   0.7(1.2)    688(683)      115-65

I had not realized how much better Hudson was than McDowell (who was also considered one of the best starters in the American League in the early 90s) during their 20s. Like Mussina, Hudson is a very fine fielder and gets more than his share of groundballs. This probably helps the ERA+ significantly.

So, it looks like Hudson has just under half a Hall of Famer's career. He's going to have to pitch well until he's 40 to have a shot. We will bring back the Green projection method for Tim Hudson's career statistics. We need some soup, and it is cold enough today, so how about a minestrone? Cook pea beans in gently boiling water for 45 minutes, and save 5 cups of the water. Meanwhile, saute a chopped onion and three cloves of garlic in olive oil. Add three finely chopped carrots, three finely chopped stalks of celery, and a teaspoon of oregano and some fresh ground pepper, and saute on medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add 2 chopped small zucchinis and a cup of chopped green pepper, the cooked beans, the water, 28 oz of tomatoes (canned) pureed, and simmer for at least 90 mins. Add some cooked pasta elbows a few minutes before serving and top with parmesan and more pepper. Inhale and pronounce:

2650 innings pitched, 125 ERA+, 172-108 record.

That wraps up Hall Watch for the 2005 season. We will see you after the 2006 season, and come back to the position players.