Let me start out by saying two things. One is that Tim Hudson was never even rumored to be on the Rockies’ free agent wishlist. The other is that hindsight is 20-20. Ok, now that that’s out of the way: Why weren’t the Colorado Rockies aggressive in pursuing Tim Hudson? I’ve had this question in the back of my mind for a few weeks now as I’ve watched Hudson pitch effectively for the rival Giants. I’m posing it now because, as I type, Tim Hudson is pitching against our Colorado Rockies. Now, Hudson could give up six runs in Coors Field today, but that’s a moot point. No matter what happens in the game today, I think this question is valid: Why is Tim Hudson pitching against the Rockies today rather than for them?
One answer to that question could just be the normal: “he doesn’t want to pitch in Coors.” For the most part, I’m very receptive to that argument, but not in Tim Hudson’s case. Hudson, at 38 years old, isn’t a pitcher who is looking to prove himself or looking to boost his stats for his next contract. With four top-six Cy Young award finishes and a 3.42 career ERA in 434 career starts, Hudson has already proven himself. Unless he suddenly becomes the best pitcher in baseball, what he does these final two or three years will have little impact on his lasting image as one of the starting pitchers for those great Atlanta Braves teams.
This is also most likely Hudson’s last contract, and certainly his last big deal (he got two years and $23 million from the Giants). I think it’s fairly safe to say that Hudson wouldn’t have been especially averse to pitching in Colorado had the Rockies shown interest in giving him a larger deal than the two years, 11.5 million dollars per year deal he eventually got.
Tim Hudson would have been perfect for the Rockies. First of all, in terms of sheer experience, he’s the type of pitcher the Rockies don’t have. Jorge De La Rosa, the Rockies’ oldest starter at 33, has never thrown 200 innings in a season. Neither has Juan Nicasio or Jhoulys Chacin or Brett Anderson. Hudson has done it eight times, and seems on his way to doing it again.
That might not seem like an important stat, but it’s important that Hudson is durable, because many pitchers are less than durable (we’ve seen that this year with Chacin, Anderson, and Tyler Chatwood already having spent stints on the DL). How much of an impact would a 38-year old starter made in terms of influencing the younger starters? It’s hard to know, but I think there’s something there, and that something is exponentially more important because the Rockies have two promising young starters- Jon Gray and Eddie Butler- who are going to have pressure heaped upon them. You think those two would appreciate having Tim Hudson around when they finally make the big league team? The answer is yes.
But Hudson would also have been a good signing because of the way he pitches. In order to be a successful pitcher in Coors Field, it’s imperative to induce a lot of ground balls. The altitude can’t affect ground balls as much as it can balls hit in the air, can it? Check this out: since 2000 (an entirely arbitrary starting point except for the fact that it’s a nice round number and also Hudson’s first full season), Hudson has the fourth best ground ball rate (58.6%) of the 151 pitchers who have thrown 1000 innings. He’s behind Brandon Webb, Derek Lowe, and Jake Westbrook. That’s it. Think about that 58.6% number for a little bit, because it’s really good. And it’s not as if Hudson’s ground ball rate has decreased as he’s aged, either. Prior to today’s game against the Rockies, Hudson’s ground ball rate was 61.7%, second best among qualified starters.
Hudson also has tremendous control, with the best walk rate of ANY qualified starter coming into today’s game. That’s important because it means that, even if Hudson isn’t at his best, he manages to avoid big innings because of his propensity to let hitters hit the ball on the ground. And if hitters hit the ball on the ground with Troy Tulowitzki, Nolan Arenado, DJ LeMahieu, and Justin Morneau in the infield? Good luck finding holes to hit the ball through.
In the end, Tim Hudson would have been just what the doctor ordered for the Colorado Rockies. He keeps the ball on the ground, has great control, and is an experienced pitcher who could have tutored Jon Gray and Eddie Butler while keeping the pressure off the promising pitchers. For some reason, though, be it money or age, the Rockies weren’t interested enough to offer Hudson a deal that surpassed San Francisco’s relatively modest offer. The Rockies are in a decent position now, but where would they be if they had Hudson in the rotation and not, say, Franklin Morales? We’ll never know, but I wish we’d had a chance to.
Tags: Colorado Rockies