On Sunday, the Oakland Athletics faced off against former teammate Tim Hudson, who picked up a win against his former squad. Hudson’s victory means that he now has at least one win against all 30 major league teams, something very few pitchers can boast about. The 40-year-old starter hasn’t pitched especially well for the Giants, but he’s been fairly acceptable at the back end of the rotation.
Over the last few seasons, there have been questions about whether Hudson is ready to hang up his spikes, but he has proven resilient. Last Friday was two years to the date from the game in which he suffered a horrific ankle injury while covering first base, and yet he somehow recovered and returned to baseball, continuing his career despite his age.
Hudson’s longevity and reliability are something to admire, but is he a Hall of Fame candidate?
Let’s take a look at his career and find out:
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Hudson certainly has plenty of awards. He appeared in two All-Star Games with the Oakland Athletics, as well as one apiece with the Braves and Giants. He was the 2010 Comeback Player of the Year, and he was among the top-six vote-getters for the Cy Young award in four seasons, including taking 39 percent of the vote in 2000, when he came in second.
Hudson also has made a name for himself by living on the leaderboards. He has the most wins amongst active players, with 220 – 75th overall in the history of the game. Beginning in 2000, Hudson spent five straight seasons ranked on the top-ten list in WAR for pitchers, as well appearing on it again in 2007 and 2010.
Fans know that wins aren’t always indicative of performance, but it still is weighted into Hall of Fame voting, so let’s look at Hudson’s win history. Five times in his career, he’s had a top-ten winning percentage at the end of the season, including having a .769 percentage in 2000. Among active pitchers, he’s one of the winningest – with a .625 lifetime mark. Hudson achieved this by having a top-ten ERA in seven seasons, along with a top-ten FIP in five seasons.
His defense has been another strong part of his game. Hudson has made just 24 errors in 17 seasons, and he’s always been a stellar defender. Part of the reason he got hurt in 2013 was that he was so determined to make the out at first that he put his foot on the bag, where it was impossible for the runner not to step on him. Even offensively, Hudson has made an impact – few pitchers can say they’ve hit three home runs, even in a lengthy career, but that’s exactly what he has done.
In 17 years, Hudson’s teams have made it to the postseason nine times, thanks in part to his stellar efforts on the mound. He’s pitched in 14 games, making 13 starts to the tune of a 3.69 ERA. Half of those appearances were as an Athletic, when he, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder combined to make one of the most daunting rotations in recent memory.
It’s hard to look at Hudson’s career and not think Hall of Fame, but it seems that he might fall just short of the mark.
For comparison’s sake, consider almost-Hall-of-Famer Jack Morris. Morris spent 18 years with four teams, for a total of 254 wins. His overall winning percentage of .577 isn’t quite as good as Hudson’s, nor is his 3.90 ERA, but he’s otherwise a very similar pitcher. He had five All-Star appearances, placed in the top-ten in Cy Young voting in seven seasons, and had a top-ten ERA five times. On the other hand, his defense was slightly less reliable, and he didn’t have the added pressure of having to bat.
Morris might represent where Hudson will fall on the Hall of Fame voters’ scale. Their longevity works against them, because it’s easy to write off so-called “counting stats” like wins in a long career, when there is ample opportunity to pile up victories. In Hudson’s case, he just doesn’t have the other statistics needed to make a Hall of Fame case.
John Smoltz, who entered the Hall of Fame this weekend, had a career 3.33 ERA, pitching for 20 years and amassing 213 wins. However, he also had 3,084 strikeouts. Fellow inductee Pedro Martinez had a career 2.93 ERA over 18 seasons, with 219 wins. Hudson’s 3.50 career ERA falls short of the mark, and his 2,069 strikeouts leave much to be desired in that category, as well.
Hudson would certainly be in the next tier, but he simply wasn’t the greatest pitcher of his era.
Players like Smoltz and Martinez outperformed him in every season of his career, and it makes it impossible to make a case for Hudson to end up in Cooperstown.
Of course, Craig Biggio was also inducted on Sunday…so maybe there is some Hall of Fame hope for Hudson, and all of baseball’s other honorable mentions, after all.