Photo: Associated Press

2012 Player Projections: Tim Hudson

The most consistent starter for the Braves in 2011, Tim Hudson had a very good 4 WAR season.  Along with a great 3.21 ERA, he showed sustainability with a 3.39 FIP and 3.44 SIERA.  His 2012 season may not begin Opening Day due to back surgery, but he should be back by May 1, leaving him with most of the season to provide good value again.

Hudson’s greatest skill is his groundball rate, sitting at 57% last year.  While that figure was his lowest since 2002, it is still well above average.  Using PITCHf/x numbers, Hudson’s sinker has just over an inch less sink on it, explaining part of the drop in groundballs.  However, groundballs are not necessarily the greatest thing for this team.  Uggla and Chipper are poor defensively, Pastornicky will likely be no better than average, and Freeman has poor range.  That being said, groundballs are still the best type of batted ball to give up and Hudson induces a lot of them.

After his 2008 Tommy John surgery, Hudson struggled a bit with his control through 2010.  This was expected since control is usually the last skill to return after the operation.  In 2011, his BB rate fell to 6.3%, his lowest since ’07.  Getting ahead of hitters was the key to the improvement, increasing his first-pitch-strike percentage from 54% to 62%.  His current injury may affect his control the most, due to the lack of spring preparation.  If his walks stay low early, he should get through the season without much struggle.

The last major factor in determining a pitcher’s performance is strikeout ability and Hudson also improved there last year.  While he’s not a dominant whiff machine, Hudson struck out 17.9% of the batters he faced last year, his highest rate since 2001.  His ability to get ahead of hitters helped, along with his increased usage of the curveball.  In 2010, he only threw 4% curves, meaning 96% of his pitches were at least 80 MPH.  Last year, that rate increased to 9%, not a big increase but it slows the hitter’s bat down knowing a 75 MPH pitch could be coming.  Another factor was the increased effectiveness of his slider.  The toughest pitch to throw after elbow surgery, Hudson’s slider was missed 13% of the time in 2010, increasing to 18% in 2011.  As his most common offspeed pitch, this resulted in about 30 more whiffs over the season.  Strikeouts generally decrease with age, so I don’t expect a rate higher than last year.  If he can stay above 16%, that should limit the exploitation of the Braves’ poor infield defense.

One may look at his BABIPs from the last three full seasons and think he’s getting lucky.  Hudson’s versatile repertoire is a big reason for such “control” of batted balls.  He has seven separate pitches which have fairly distinct movement and velocity.  His sinker has three more inches of tail and sink than his flat four-seam fastball.  His slider has two more inches of lateral movement and drop.  His splitter has one inch more tail and four more inches of drop.  This may not sound like much, but a barrel is only 2 3/4 inches thick and the sweet spot is no more than six inches wide.  Hudson makes hitters guess, keeping the ball off the barrel, which results in low BABIPs.

For 2012, I expect some regression due to the injury and general aging for a 36-year-old.  A FIP around 3.60 in about 180 IP should give him 2.5-3 WAR, an above average total and worth the $9M he is being paid.

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Tags: Atlanta Braves Player Projections Tim Hudson

  • clearwall

    Holy crap, did you just say

    “…Chipper [is] poor defensively???”

    He had the 2nd best fielding percentage at his position last year! Dude, i cant read the rest of this column unless you take that crap out. Did you maybe mean “Uggla and PASTORNICKY are poor defensively?”

  • CarlosCollazo

    @Trey Peters Fielding percentage is a pretty bad way to judge a fielder in my opinion. I also don’t like the advanced metrics like UZR and DRS. Chipper is getting old, has bad knees, and doesn’t have great range. I would completely agree that Chipper is a below average third baseman. It doesn’t mean he is atrocious. Our infield defense is once again one of the weakest in the league at this point.

  • clearwall

    @CarlosCollazo Look man, I really like you and this site. I found you a few days ago and I bookmarked this site because I really like your passion and how and what you say on here. So dont take this the wrong way, but you are completely off on this one.

    First of all, the one handed catch-and-grab is a Chipper Jones trademark play. No one else in baseball can do it like he does with the consistency and success that Chip does.

    Secondly, you mentioned range factor which is why Chip is a 3B and not a SS any longer. You dont need a huge range at 3B because you have that big white line that terminates a good bit of the field you have to cover. Range factor is used to really gague SS and 2B more than the corners. What you need at the corner is a quick glove and a strong arm, both of which Chipper has. The low errors and FLD% indicate that.

    Finally, you say “Our infield defense is once again one of the weakest in the league at this point.” Do you really think losing Escobar will take us from the second-best team defense to “one of the weakest?” I sure dont. I think it will drop, yes, but overall it will be one of the better ones in the league, no doubt.

  • CarlosCollazo

    @Trey Peters I’m glad you like the site hopefully our different opinions on this matter won’t run you off. Haha but I do feel like our infield defense is weak. A-Gon and Escobar are fantastic defensively and TP isn’t going to come close to them.

    On fielding percentage, sure Chipper had the second highest fielding percentage last year (among qualified 3B) but he also had the second fewest chances. It makes sense that he would have less errors with less opportunities to make mistakes.

  • leetro

    @Trey Peters @CarlosCollazo Chipper is really good at the charge-in, but that is not that common of a play throughout the season. His first step is not nearly as good as it was, which is essentially the range for 3B, and Chipper doesn’t have that anymore.As far as the whole infield, let’s say Uggla is poor, Chipper and Pastornicky are a bit below average, and Freeman is a bit above average, only because of his glovework at the base. That comes out below average, which is probably 20-25th overall.

  • MattyK

    @Trey Peters @CarlosCollazo It’s fair to balance out what the eye sees with what the stats say. Fangraphs’ UZR as well as Defensive Runs Saved peg him at below league average, nestled somewhere between Aramis Ramirez and David Wright.

    Fielding percentage falls short of being able to explain what’s happening because it makes no effort to quantify the difficulty of plays, especially those plays Chipper never even gets to.

    However, like all stats, these are not perfect measurements. This is why Fangraphs started the “Fan Scouting Report” to let fans rate players’ defensive skills. In FSR, Chipper is considered just about average, and maybe even a little above. So maybe he’s not a sack of potatoes over there, but he’s also not special. And he turns 40 in April.

    I personally am always wary of the eye test. Our brains are not meant to remember and process so much information. With another year on those knees after more recent injuries, it would not be surprising to see him struggle more at the hot corner this season.

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