Could San Francisco Giants Pitcher Tim Hudson Be In Line For the NL CY Young Award?
San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Hudson has been nothing short of magnificent in the early portion of this 2014 season. This magnificence was on display for all to see Thursday, as the Giants defeated the San Diego Padres 3-2, behind another superb Hudson outing: 8 2/3 IP, 5 H’s, 2 R’s, 2 ER’s, 0 BB’s, 6 SO’s, 1 HR, on 89 pitches. After signing a two-year, $23 million contract this past offseason with the Giants, the 38-year old right-hander has accumulated a 4-1 W-L record in six starts, with a 2.17 ERA, 11 ER’s, 3 HR’s, 2 BB’s, 31 SO’s, and a 0.745 WHIP, in 45.2 innings pitched. While it’s only six starts and a relatively small sample size, we can at least start to entertain the idea and conversation of Hudson possibly being in the mix for the NL CY Young Award.
When the signing was made public, there was a universal agreement that the signing of Hudson by the Giants was both smart and mutually beneficial to both the Giants and Hudson. The Giants were in desperate need of an innings-eating veteran for their starting rotation, and Hudson, a groundball pitcher, would greatly benefit from the pitcher-friendly confines of the Giants home field, AT&T Park. But no one expected Hudson to pitch with the complete and utter dominance he has displayed so far this season. In the six starts he has made this season, he’s gone at least seven innings in all of those games, and the Giants have won five of his six starts. In the one game were Hudson took the loss, he still managed to go seven strong innings, while only allowing 2 ER’s. In the one game were Hudson took a no-decision, Hudson allowed a season-high 4 ER’s, but the Giants still managed to prevail. But what has been really impressive about each and every one of Hudson’s starts so far this season is how economical he’s been with his pitch count. Hudson has only topped 100 pitched twice in his six starts this season (103 his first start, 101 his second start). Generally, a manager and pitching coach want their starting pitchers to be around 40-45 pitches every three innings, Hudson is going on average seven innings and is around 90 pitches when he exits. You have to love that as a manager and pitching coach.
Another sign of Hudson’s dominance has been his ability to have complete control and command of his pitches. In all, Hudson has thrown 569 pitches in his six starts, and 395 of them have been for strikes. That is an average of 69% of his pitches thrown for strikes. Furthermore, Hudson has only allowed 2 BB’s this season to 31 SO’s. That’s a 15.5 SO/BB ratio! To put it in even a better prospective, Hudson has allowed 3 HR’s this season. He’s allowed more home runs than walks. Now, I highly doubt these numbers will last and eventually, he will allow more walks than home runs obviously, but I just wanted to paint the pitcher more clearly for you of how locked-in Hudson is with his pitch command and control thus far this season.
If you want me to really geek it up for you, we can get all sabermetricy on Hudson. Hudson’s BAbip (Batting Average on Balls-In-Play) this season is .212. What this means is two things: he is generating a lot of ground ball and fly ball outs on pitches that make the field of play, and the Giants are playing extremely good defense for him. Also, his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is 2.81, which is higher than his ERA of 2.17, but still plenty good to be CY Young Award worthy.
There is one last factor working in Hudson’s favor, and it has nothing to do with Hudson’s pitching, but everything to do with where he is pitching. Hudson, who is known to be a ground ball pitcher, featuring a heavy sinker-ball as one of his main arsenal pitches, will start relatively half of his starts in AT&T Park, a very pitcher-friendly ballpark and where the home run goes to die. And when Hudson is not pitching at AT&T Park, he gets the luxury of pitching in the NL West Division; a division that features both Petco Park, where the Padres play, and Dodger Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, both ballparks where not a lot of home runs are hit as well. Chase Bank Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, can also be somewhat difficult to hit home runs out of, with its deep center field and the roof being closed. Obviously there is Coors Fields, home of the Colorado Rockies, which is a homer zone. But that should affect Hudson too much. So again, Hudson gets the benefit of pitching in ballparks that play to his strengths and where he can excel.
The month of May might be a bit early to start discussing who the front-runners are for the MVP and CY Young Awards, as this could all blow up very easily and render this as crazy talk. And obviously, there are other starting pitchers in the NL who are pitching just as well, if not even better than Hudson (Miami Marlins Jose Fernandez and his 4-1 W-L record with a 1.59 ERA is raising his hand). But you can’t ignore the type of numbers Hudson is putting up and there seems to be no sign of regression from start to start. He is 38-years old and does have some injury history that could come into play, but for now all we have is the eye test. And Hudson is passing it with flying colors.