This player preview was written by Thomas Grantham, who posts here as granman29.
On first glance it appears as though Tim Hudson's numbers have regressed since coming over to the National League from Oakland in 2005. In his six seasons with the A's, the sinkerballer had one of the major's best winning percentages going 92-39 (.702) while posting a 3.30 ERA. In fact, the only two pitchers in the American League over that same stretch with better winning percentages (min. 75 starts) were Johan Santana (.705) and Pedro Martinez (.766). However, since being traded to Atlanta at the prime age of 29, Hudson has gone just 56-36 (.589) with an ERA of 3.77. But judging his performance based on these statistics alone would be archaic at best, so let's dig a little deeper into the numbers.
If we advance under the assumption that a pitcher has a minimal effect on how balls put in play are hit, examining Hudson's strikeout, walk, and homerun rates in his time with Oakland versus Atlanta helps explain the spike in ERA. While his BB/9 and HR/9 ratios have stayed relatively constant between the two places, Hudson has struck out only 5.5 batters per nine innings in Atlanta compared to 6.5 in Oakland. This comes as a bit of a surprise considering Hudson gets to face a pitcher about three times a start with Atlanta as opposed to a designated hitter in his Oakland days. So for every 200 innings Huddy has pitched with Atlanta, he has allowed 22 more balls in play on average than with Oakland. Although Hudson's primary pitch is a sinkerball whose primary purpose is to produce grounders, getting 22 less "sure outs" over the course of a season makes him significantly more dependent on his defense.
Recently the Braves have had a very respectable defensive infield anchored by Yunel at short (ask Bill James or Baseball Prospectus, not UZR), and Hudson's last three injury hampered seasons have reflected this. This solid defensive play behind him must continue if Hudson is to put up the kinds of numbers Braves fans expect from him. Fortunately, Huddy seems to have fully recovered from season ending Tommy John surgery in 2008 and has experienced no major setbacks. Additionally Hudson has pitched 14 spectacular innings this Spring (for what it's worth), striking out 13 batters in 14 IP while only issuing one free pass and posting a 1.93 ERA. If he can avoid giving up the long ball and produce a favorable SO/BB ratio, the former All-American pitcher at Auburn should expect to return to his old form.
Nice review by Thomas.