When the Giants added 38-year-old Tim Hudson to the rotation last November, I remember thinking, ‘That’s a sure pair of hands.’ For whatever reason, that phrase stuck in my head whenever I thought about Hudson. He was a sure pair of hands, nothing more, nothing less. I was sure the Giants would, at the very least, get a decent return on their investment. For whatever reason, I wasn’t nearly as reassured by this move as I should have been. The Giants had added arguably the most consistent starting pitchers available at their price range, but it still didn’t feel like enough.
At this point, I think it’s fair to say that the Giants made a good call.
The Giants knew when they signed Hudson that they were getting a stifling sinker baller, but I doubt even they expected that a pitcher Hudson’s age would perform at a career-high level. Since joining the Athletics in 1999, Hudson’s control has improved almost every season, forcing his walk totals down as he faced more major league hitters. He enjoyed what I’m sure many considered at the time to be his peak in 2003. He was 27, in the middle of his prime years as a baseball player. He went on to earn an invitation to the All-Star game in 2004, when he walked a career-low 44 hitters in 2004, and only 19 in his first 13 starts.
Ten years later, he is even better.
In typical Hudsonian fashion (it’s a word now), Tim Hudson’s immediate impact wasn’t flashy, but it was incredibly effective. In 13 games, Hudson has allowed more than 10 base runners only once, and still limited the Mets to only 3 runs in 5 innings. His most remarkable trait, however, has been the lack of walks.
I don’t think anyone expected this. Brian Sabean has proven adept at getting production from older players, but somehow I doubt even he could have predicted that Hudson would perform at this level. After 13 starts, Hudson has walked only 13 batters, and leads the league with a 1.81 ERA. You might blame this on pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, but Hudson spent the last 8 years at Turner Field, which isn’t exactly a hitter’s haven. Nope, Hudson is the primary reason for his own success.
The strangest thing about watching Hudson plow through major league lineups is the thought that what has happened to him is exactly what the Giants were hoping would happen to Tim Lincecum. Hudson’s co-Tim has been awful for three seasons, but his previous success was enough for the Giants to pay too much money to re-sign him. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people talk about Lincecum ‘figuring things out’, but it stopped having meaning a long time ago. The weird thing is, Hudson seems to have figured something out, and is playing at a level he has never reached before.
As I said above, Hudson’s control has been developing since he came up in 1999, which makes it slightly less surprising that he is pitching as effectively as he has in the last thirteen games. However, the idea of a 38-year-old pitcher with 439 starts under his belt putting up career numbers is weird enough to merit examination.