May 10, 2012 at 1:56 pm by Ben Duronio under Defense
Fredi Gonzalez gets a lot of grief for many decisions he makes. Some are rightful criticisms and some are wrongful, but there are certain decisions he makes that are worthy of praise that often go relatively unnoticed. While he is not the most consistent with it, he does tend to set his lineup to avoid consecutive hitters of the same handedness, which is an extremely vital step in lineup creation. He also has seemingly made Jack Wilson the personal shortstop for Tim Hudson, which is a very wise decision. In each of the past two games, Wilson has started at shortstop when Hudson has pitched. While this is not definitely a trend that will continue, it does look to be something that the Braves and Gonzalez are testing.
Since 1999, Hudson’s rookie season, only five pitchers have recorded ground balls at a higher rate than Hudson. Everyone here knows he is a ground ball pitcher, and it is extremely helpful to the success of those pitchers that the infield defense behind them is quality. With the current assortment of defenders the Braves possess, there is really no way to ensure this for Hudson’s starts. There is, however, a way to at least improve it.
Tyler Pastornicky has not been a plus defender, you could even call him below to potentially even well below average in his first month plus of major league play. His skills at shortstop are limited in comparison to a majority of his peers, and at the infield’s most important position, this can prove costly for a pitcher like Hudson.
While Jack Wilson is nowhere near the quality of defender he once was, he is still an improvement over Pastornicky. The Braves lose offense in replacing Wilson with Pastornicky on these days, but the Braves have really had no issue scoring runs to this point in the season. Pastornicky has been helpful offensively, though he has struggled over the past few games, but the improvement that Wilson has defensively over Pastornicky is essential for games in which Hudson is pitching.
Hudson had a marvelous start yesterday and the only run he allowed, coincidentally, was on a single just out of the reach of Wilson. Confirmation bias should not get in the way of rational thinking, and starting Wilson at shortstop behind Hudson, if this is a season long concept, is a forward thinking way to improve run prevention by management.