June 29, 2009 at 12:44 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Billy Beane, St. Louis Cardinals, Transactions
Three way trades rarely happen in Major League Baseball. They just don’t. They do in the NBA, but not in MLB. But they’re not prohibited and they’re not completely un-heard of. Take the Mike Hampton trade for example (OK, so bad example to try to convince Braves fans that a 3-way trade is worth doing). Or the Jason Bay trade (OK, another bad example). Point is, they exist.
Since we’re on an Atlanta Braves site and I am talking about a 3-way trade, you assume I’m talking about either adding a competent corner outfielder or selling off a trade chip. I’m talking about the former. I still believe this team has a chance to win this year. Not with that worthless waste of space occupying right field, but with the other 7-10 regulars and 1 additional player. This 1 additional player is what I’m talking about.
The Cardinals acquiring Mark DeRosa is significant to this trade proposal. Not because DeRosa would’ve been a good fit for Atlanta (he’d have been OK, but not quite what I envision as an ideal piece), but because it shows the Cardinals are committed to winning now. They’re looking to contend for the World Series this season. DeRosa is a nice addition for them, but acquiring a rental means you’re looking to win now. Why stop there?
It has been well documented that the Cardinals were in pursuit of Matt Holliday. And for good reason. If the Cards are in win-now mode, Holliday is a perfect fit. They have the financial flexibility and they’re looking for a bat to protect Pujols. Matt Holliday would make not only make the Cardinals a virtual sure-thing for the post-season, he’d make them the favorite (or close to it behind LA and their spectacularly weak NL West schedule) to win the NLCS. The asking price on Holliday is high. It has been reported that the asking price is as high as Brett Wallace. This will likely come down as Billy Beane feels more pressure to deal Holliday as the deadline approaches (he says there’s no pressure, I’m not buying it). But still likely out of the Cardinals price range prospect-wise.
The Cardinals were reportedly willing to part with Ryan Ludwick in order to acquire Matt Holliday. I believe this is the Braves second chance (they missed the boat on the first chance) to acquire a very special player in Ryan Ludwick. The first chance occurred in the off-season when a swap of Kelly Johnson and Ryan Ludwick was rumored but never came to fruition. This was a huge mistake and should not be made again. If the Cardinals are looking to acquire Matt Holliday and they’re willing to part with Ludwick for him, the Braves should get involved sending prospects to Oakland to help the Cardinals acquire Ludwick. Something like Cardinals get 1 piece of bullpen help and Matt Holliday, Oakland gets two 1st-3rd round talent level prospects in the low minors (the equivalent of what Beane would get in the draft without the task of signing his draft picks while saving money by unloading Matt Holliday), and Atlanta gets Ryan Ludwick and cash.
Ludwick is currently experiencing a slump. Since returning from the disabled list, he’s hit .180/.260/.292 with 3 HR. A drastic change from his .274/.339/.538 pre-DL. Injuries have been a problem for Ludwick throughout his career and I have to believe that injuries are currently causing his slump. But Ludwick has shown the ability to post monster numbers when healthy, hitting .299/.375/.591 with 37 HR in 2008 hitting line drives 28% of the time (down to 17% this season, I blame the injury). A healthy Ryan Ludwick would certainly make the Atlanta Braves a competitive team. And even a not-healthy Ludwick isn’t that much of a downgrade from Jeff Francoeur.
Atlanta and St. Louis have the pieces to pry Holliday from Oakland and the thought of Holliday in St. Louis is enough to pry Ludwick from Oakland. Would the Cardinals be interested in Kelly Johnson still (he’s also slumping, a buy low sell low proposition)? Or would we be looking at providing a bullpen arm and a prospect (ala. Manny Acosta and Craig Kimbrell or the like)?
Bottom line, if the Cardinals are still serious about acquiring Matt Holliday and they’re still interested in moving Ludwick in the process, Frank Wren should ensure Ludwick ends up in Atlanta, not Oakland.
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.