Now that Jon Lester has retired, there is a great deal of speculation as to whether or not he will end up in the MLB Hall of Fame. The general consensus is that he will, that his resume and the fact that he won championships with the Red Sox and Cubs will be enough to push him over the top. This is interesting to note considering that one of Lester’s most comparable pitchers in his career is former Oakland A’s ace Tim Hudson.
While Lester is considered to have a strong case for the Hall, the same cannot be said for Hudson. He barely earned a second year on the ballot, surpassing the 5% threshold by one vote. A third year is in question as he has received just four votes and has lost three during this cycle.
Jon Lester and Tim Hudson are remarkably similar
And yet, Lester and Hudson had remarkably similar careers. Lester was a five time All Star whose best finish in the Cy Young vote was second in 2016. He posted a 200-117 record with a 3.66 ERA and a 1.278 WHiP in his 16 year career, striking out 2488 batters with 892 walks over his 2740 innings. Those efforts resulted in 44.2 bWAR, currently 142nd all time for major league pitchers.
Hudson, meanwhile, was a four time All Star whose best finish in the Cy Young vote was second in 2000. He posted a lifetime 222-123 record with a 3.49 ERA and a 1.239 WHiP over his 17 year career, striking out 2040 batters with 917 walks in his 3126.2 innings. Hudson’s efforts resulted in 56.5 bWAR, tied with Dave Steib for 77th all time.
Based strictly on the numbers, one could argue that Hudson was the better of the two pitchers. bWAR would agree with that assessment, as Hudson is far ahead of Lester on the all time ranks. However, Lester being a key part of three World Series winning teams with the Red Sox and Cubs has given him a greater stature in the game even if Hudson does have a championship as well.
Postseason success has led to enshrinement in some cases. Jack Morris and Bill Mazeroski likely owe their inclusion in the Hall of Fame to their playoff heroics. Lester, his time in Oakland ignored, was a strong postseason pitcher, winning the 2016 NLCS MVP. Hudson, while a solid playoff pitcher himself, did not have that one standout moment.
That may be the difference. Lester had his success with a pair of high profile teams in the Red Sox and Cubs. Hudson was better statistically but played in markets that are traditionally overlooked. In this case, the perception that Lester was somehow better than Hudson, and more deserving of the Hall of Fame, does not match the reality.
Jon Lester is considered to be a future Hall of Famer while Tim Hudson is not. In reality, Hudson had the better career of the two.