Coming into 2012, Tim Hudson was healing after a back surgery that cost him a few starts in April. At 36 years of age, some were wondering if he could bounce back from a herniated disk, but he proved most of those doubters wrong. He finished the season with a 3.62 ERA and 3.78 FIP in 179 IP, down a bit from the previous two seasons, but still at an above-average level.
As always, his batted ball profile was his strength, inducing over 55% groundballs and a fairly low line drive rate. This resulted in a .270 BABIP allowed, well below the .295 league average. He also kept the ball in the park, allowing 12 HR, which was 8.3% of all flyballs. That low percentage is what caused his xFIP to creep above 4.00. The only odd thing was the nine double plays induced, way less than any other full season in his career.
The main reason for the slight drop in success were the loss of strikeouts. His 13.6% K rate was his lowest as a Brave, and there was a coinciding rise in Contact%. He also lost a fair amount of velocity, losing about 1.5 MPH on his fastballs, which will hurt both GB% and K rate. His slider was also a bit straighter and flatter, making it easier to hit. This deficit will likely be offset a bit next year by having a full season of Andrelton Simmons and Martin Prado in the infield.
Huddy’s control was up to par as usual, walking just over 6% of hitters while throwing almost 62% first-pitch strikes. He was throwing the ball in the strike zone a bit more often than the past couple seasons, which also helps explain his K rate. His four-seamer and curveball had the highest ball rates, but those are rarely-used pitches that are commonly meant to be thrown out of the zone.
Runners had to earn any bases they got, as they were only 2-of-7 on steal attempts, and Hudson only threw three wild pitches and no passed balls the whole season. It’s very surprising that he still ended up with a below-average strand rate. He handled lefties well, though it was mostly due to BABIP luck, as his K/BB ratio was quite a bit better against righties. He pitched better at home, but had better results on the road, due to a 70 point drop in BABIP. His best month was June, while his worst month was May, but his worst peripherals came in August. Offensively, he managed one of his better seasons, hitting .218/.250/.273, plus seven sacrifice bunts and two sacrifice flies. That’s about half a win just from his offense alone.
It seems to be a lock that his $9M option will be picked up this year, but there are no guarantees after that. He will turn 38 next July, and there was no pitcher at that age this season who has a guaranteed contract for next year. If he has another above-average season, he may get a couple years, but with that velocity drop, the end is coming quicker than you think and a multi-year deal is unlikely. That being said, I think he will be at least average next year, but I have a feeling hitters will start squaring him up more often, pushing his ERA up around 4.00.