Saturday, March 19, 2005

Some reasons to feel good about Tim Hudson

As background, the main criticisms of the Braves inking Hudson to a long-term deal are 1) he has had hip problems for the past 2-3 years, probably as a result of the torque he has to generate with his small frame to produce velocity, and 2) his strikeout rate has declined. As to the first issue, the Braves examined him pretty thoroughly before inking him to an extension, so we'll just have to trust their judgment. As to the second, there are a number of reasons to feel good about Hudson:

1. While his strikeout rate did drop, he was still a respectable 29th in the majors in K/BB ratio. Why? Because his control was terrific. He walked a smidge over two batters per nine innings, which is a great ratio.

2. He allowed eight homers in 188 innings, which is a fantastic record of keeping the ball in play. In fact, Hudson's homers allowed have declined in each of the past five seasons, as have his walks allowed. The three stats that a pitcher can truly control are walks, homers allowed, and strikeouts. Hudson isn't striking out as many batters as he used to, but he's gotten significantly better in the other two categories. Also, while Oakland's [Insert name of tech company] Stadium is a decent pitcher's park, Hudson will benefit, as most right-hand pitchers do, from Turner Field, which punishes left-handed hitters with a deep right-center field alley.

3. Only seven qualified pitchers had a lower pitches/inning pitched ratio, which means that Hudson isn't lying when he says that he deemphasized striking batters out and has become more effective at getting out of innings.

One other note: Hudson was 4th among qualified pitchers in GB/FB ratio. This means that Atlanta's infield is going to play a major role in determining whether Hudson is successful this year. The Braves are strong up the middle. Giles has turned into a good defensive second baseman and Furcal makes up for an erratic arm with terrific range (and his arm is powerful enough to get runners that other shortstops would never be able to throw out.) LaRoche is a good defensive first baseman. The big question could be Chipper, who was pretty good last year, but who doesn't have very good range anymore. If his defense contributes to Hudson struggling this year, then the calls for Andy Marte are going to get louder and louder, not that Bobby would ever move Chipper to LF for a youngster.

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