Friday, March 16, 2007

The Baseball Prospectus Book Report on Tim Hudson

We're hoping for less of the "Tim Hudson beleaguered" look this year.

I try not to get too caught up in the "_____ is the key to a good season" line of thinking. For instance, I would like to proclaim that Tim Hudson is the key to the Braves' season because their starting pitching was a major weakness last year and Hudson's disappointing campaign was a large reason why. That said, if Hudson returns to his Oakland form, but the team finishes 78-84 because they get no production from the first and second base spots, then what have I really proved? I'm comfortable saying that Hudson is important to the Braves because they need him to be a reliable starter and they are paying him lots of money to be one when their payroll isn't big enough to weather a non-producing, big money guy.

It's with that intro in mind that I link the Baseball Prospectus's Player Profile for Hudson. Unfortunately, there isn't much cause for optimism there. The gist of the article is that Hudson thrived, despite a low strikeout rate, because of significant groundball tendencies paired with a sterling defensive infield in Oakland. This is a major concern for Hudson in '07 because it's likely that the Braves' infield will be worse defensively this year than it has been in the past two years. Edgar Renteria and Chipper Jones are both a year older and the latter has never been much with the glove. On the right side, the Braves will likely see a decline in defensive performance from the first base spot when they go from Scott Thorman to Adam Laroche. Ditto for the second base spot, where the Braves go from Marcus Giles to a converted outfielder who once made 45 errors at Class A Macon and is coming off of Tommy John surgery.

The most disturbing trends for Hudson since he's come to Atlanta are increases in his home run and walk rates. Over his last four years in Oakland, Hudson's home run rate decreased each year, from .8 HR/9 in 2001 to .7, .6, and then .4 in 2004, his last year in Oakland. Since he's come to Atlanta, those rates have jumped up to .9 and then 1.0 last year. Ditto for his walk rate, which declined in each of his last four years in Oakland and then has jumped up in his two years in Atlanta. Is Hudson trying to hard to strike batters out in Atlanta because he has less faith in his defense? Is he declining because of natural aging? The Braves need Hudson to pitch well, but I fear that I'm hoping against hope that he'll magically reverse a two-year trend and improve his peripherals. Those walk and home run rates should receive some close scrutiny this year in April and May.

No comments: