Skeptics Say: Hudson is a candidate for the Verducci Effect. For those that don’t know what that is, baseball writer Tom Verducci found evidence to suggest that pitchers that experience an increase of 30 innings pitched or more from season to season before the age of 25 are susceptible to either injury or underperformance. Hudson is going into his age 25 season in 2012. Below, starting in 2008, I’ve outlined the season, his age, and innings pitched:
2008 – 21 – 69.2 IP
2009 – 22 – 166 IP
2010 – 23 – 188 IP
2011 – 24 – 227.1 IP (playoffs included)
With the exception of 2009-’10, that is a pretty dramatic increase in workload each year. While looking at his pre and post All Star break splits last year shows he had a better 2nd half than first, I’m nervous that he was used too much down the stretch (which was unavoidable with Arizona looking to get into, then making the playoffs). From August on, he made 12 starts and pitched at least seven innings in eight of them, and at least eight innings in four. I’m not saying that Arizona should have been mindful of his innings pitched. They were looking to make the playoffs and did what they needed to do to get there.
Peer Comparison: Hudson was a K machine in the minors but has yet to match that type of success in the majors, posting only a 6.85 K/9 (52nd among qualified starters) this past season. I’m not too worried about this since he gave us a swinging strike rate of 9.9% (21st among qualified starters), and started to use his slider more this past season. Be on the lookout for an increase in K’s this upcoming season. Players that posted swinging strike rates similar to him and their K/9 numbers below:
Justin Verlander – 10.2% - 8.96
A.J. Burnett – 10% - 8.18
Dan Haren – 9.9% - 7.25
Max Scherzer – 9.8% - 8.03
Ricky Romero – 9.6% - 7.12
I think it was an anomaly that he didn’t get more strikeouts considering the results of his peers above.
Team Outlook: According to MLB Trade Rumors, the D-backs have about $30MM to spend on a pitcher and an upgrade at 2nd or 3rd (or both). As it stands Kennedy and Hudson will be 1-2, then after that it could be Collmenter at 3 if they decide against Joe Saunders going forward. That could put a lot of pressure on Kennedy and Hudson to carry the staff. It will be interesting to see how they respond to having these higher expectations placed on them.
A Blogger’s Take: Take out the first inning of his starts in 2011, the conversation on Hudson might be a little different. That being said, Hudson still had a decent sophomore season with the Dbacks. Hudson went 16-12 with a 3.49 ERA that truly could and should have been better. He was also an asset at the plate, hitting .277 with 1 home run and 14 RBI. Definitely still the number two in the rotation heading into next season. If Hudson can get the upper hand on his early inning troubles, he could probably hit the 20-win mark and reduce his ERA to the 3.00 mark or even lower. – Scott Allen, Venom Strikes
Projection: I went over his strikeouts situation above but I also want to highlight that he was able to pretty much swap the percentage of ground balls and fly balls given up for the better, and reduced his HR/FB rate in the process. We want to see him avoid injury ultimately since 222 innings is on the workhorse side already and we looked at those big workload increases. If that happens then I think he will be able to produce another fine fantasy season improving on a solid 2011 campaign.
17-12 record, 3.27 ERA, 180 K’s, 1.16 WHIP, 210 IP.