Since 1990, the Atlanta Braves have only had eight different opening day starting pitchers. However, since 2000 the amount of different opening day starters is the same, eight. Fortunate for the Braves they had Greg Maddux (7), Tom Glavine (4) and John Smoltz (4) throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s to manhandle the opening day spots. But since the days of those three, we’ve had Tommy Hanson (2012), Derek Lowe (2009-2011) and Tim Hudson (2006, 2008). With the 2013 season approaching, Fredi Gonzalez has not picked an opening day starting pitcher yet but I believe the pitcher who should be starting opening day versus the Philadelphia Phillies is Tim Hudson.
Going with experience and leadership over the very talented Kris Medlen, I’d say the Atlanta awards Hudson with his third opening day start with the Braves. Hudson recorded his first career opening day start in 2001 and then two more in 2003 and 2004 with the Oakland Athletics. Then, after being traded to the Braves in 2005, he logged two more opening day starts in 2006 and 2008. In 2013 Hudson should get an even six career opening day starts.
This will be Hudson’s ninth season in Atlanta but if your asking why he’s only had two previous opening day starts, here’s why. After Hudson’s opening day start, he had a disappointing 2006 season and Smoltz got the opening day start in 2007. Then he started opening day in 2008 but in midseason, it was revealed he would need Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss almost all of 2009. He came back extremely strong in 2010 with one of his best seasons as a pro going 17-9, 2.83 ERA and WHIP of 1.150 in 34 starts but was still behind Derek Lowe for the first game of the season starter for 2011. Then, after several seasons of dealing with back problems, Hudson decided to undergo back surgery following the 2011 season and was not ready for the opening day roster for 2012. Now fully healthy for 2013, Hudson should be on the mound April 1st.
Coming off another stellar season in 2012 where he went 16-7 with an ERA of 3.62 and WHIP 1.207, Hudson continues to pitch strong into his mid to late 30’s. This season he will turn 38 in July but I don’t see that much of a drop in performance. He has never relied on his fastball (89-91mph) to get hitters out. He’s been a sinkerballer pitcher, using this mightily on left-handed hitters and using his cutter on right-handers. If Hudson can continue with his reliability in hitting his spots and his movement on the sinkerball and cutter, he will continue with success.
The leader and captain of the Atlanta Braves should be given the honor to be on the mound on opening day.