April 21, 2009 at 7:38 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Billy Beane, Draft, Scouting, Tim Hudson
Tim Hudson is an excellent pitcher. Despite never putting together an extended run of dominance like the one he was starting to assemble before his injury and the one that I know he is capable of assembling, his career numbers are very good. In a 10 year career he has a 3.48 ERA and a 126 ERA+. That’s not easy to do. The 126 ERA+ ranks 6th among pitchers born in 1974 or later that have thrown 900+ innings in MLB. Hudson has won 146 games and lost only 77. I don’t put very much stock in winning percentage, but wow, he has won almost twice as many as he lost. He’s always relied on getting ground balls with a career GB/FB ratio of 1.41 (compared to MLB’s average of 0.78), but he’s still managed to strike out 6.1 batters per 9 innings and walk only 2.8 batters per 9 innings (2.22 career K/BB ratio). Overall, it goes without saying that he’s a player any team would like to have. Whether or not you’re willing to give him “ace” status, that’s up to you. But I’m pretty sure MLB hitters don’t go into a game against Tim Hudson and say, “He’ll be a pushover, he’s no ace”. They probably say something like: “Oh Sh*t! We’ve got to face Tim Hudson”.
Tim Hudson, after having a dominant high school career, was completely ignored by scouts because of his size. To this day Hudson isn’t a big guy, but if you see pictures of him even while he was at Auburn, 4 years later than his senior year in high school, he was tiny. He looks sort of like an under-fed farmer’s kid. Anyway, you get the idea, he was really small. Scouts, for bad and completely off-base reasons, “rationalized” that his numbers didn’t count. They made excuses to dismiss him. Professional scouts weren’t alone, college scouts pretty much completely ignored him as well. They ignored him to the point that he did not receive a single college scholarship and opted to attend the Chattahoochee Valley Community College in his hometown and play baseball there. Now, maybe he couldn’t get into college because of his high school grades and SAT scores, but I have a good feeling that if the school he finally ended up attending, Auburn University, wanted him, he would’ve been able to go.
Hudson again shocked scouts with a great freshmen season at he Chattahoochee Valley Community College. He led the team in several offensive AND pitching categories. After one year at college, someone in the Oakland organization noticed him enough to convince the draft gurus to take him in the 35th round of the 1994 draft. It initially proved to be bad advice as Hudson passed on the offer and opted to return to CVCC for his Sophomore season. Like clockwork all over again (I think Yogi should have said clockwork instead of Déjà vu), he had an excellent season, again posting team-highs in several offensive and pitching categories. I don’t know if the Chattahoochee Valley Community College feeds directly into Auburn, but regardless, after the 1995 season, Tim Hudson finally found himself on a division I team at Auburn. Somehow, and this amazes the HELL out of me, the coaches at Auburn weren’t convinced he was ready to be a starting pitcher his first season there (1996). He made only 4 starts and 21 relief appearances during 1996 for the Tigers despite showing impressive stuff and posting excellent numbers. In 1997, the Auburn staff decided it was time to get him in a starting role. That year he started in 18 games and made only 4 relief appearances. Oh yeah, when he wasn’t starting with the ball in his hand, he was running around the outfield as the team’s every-day center fielder. He led the team in strikeouts (pitching) and home runs (batting). He went 15-2 with a 2.97 ERA and earned the SEC Player Of The Year. That year, as the assistant GM of the Oakland A’s, Billy Beane took him in the 6th round of the MLB first-year player draft.
How did Tim Hudson make it to the 6th round? It’s a question for the ages, but I can attempt to answer it. The only players in baseball right now that were taken in the first 6 rounds of the 1997 MLB rule 4 draft arguably better than Tim Hudson are Chase Utley and Lance Berkman, no pitchers. Other pitchers taken above Hudson, in addition to the many, many pitchers that didn’t ever make it to the majors, include Jon Garland, Randy Wolf, Jeremy Affeldt, and Horatio Ramirez. However, Hudson made it to the 185th pick. I’d say at round 6 he’s one heck of a pick. If you went to any club and said that with 100% certainty this player will turn out exactly like Tim Hudson, there isn’t a club that wouldn’t take him with the first overall pick. My theory is he would have dropped a lot farther if Billy Beane hadn’t stepped in and said, “I am not letting the SEC player of the year drop any farther no matter what you say about how short he is”. Again, scouts weren’t willing to take a chance on him because of his frame, completely disregarding the numbers and pretending they know everything there is to know about the game. Scouts ignoring numbers happens all the time, that’s the way scouts are bred, more-so then than now, but nonetheless. In this case, Tim Hudson has Billy Bean to thank for his career because he challenged conventional wisdom, and Billy Beane has Tim Hudson to thank for the excellent years of production and 3 prospects he received from the Braves in the 2004 trade because Hudson refused to give up on his baseball career just because of what scouts thought of his smaller physique (though the 3 prospects didn’t quite pan out).
Taking Hudson in the 6th round exploited a market inefficiency. Beane’s made a fortune and built very successful franchise in Oakland based entirely on exploiting market inefficiencies. Hudson’s selection in 1997 at such a late time makes him the ultimate Billy Beane draft pick. Now, maybe Beane had nothing to do with the selection of Hudson. Maybe he Hudson was selected for some nepotistic reason. Maybe that old scout that saw him in 1994 insisted. Maybe Beane was involved with the selection of Hudson but it was completely unscientific. Any of these things could be true. But I doubt them all.
Though we won’t have the pleasure of watching Tim Hudson for most of the season, it is still nice to write about him. He’s still with the Braves for leadership reasons and he’ll likely be back in August and in 2010 as part of one of the most dominant staffs in baseball.
This post was origionally posted elsewhere.