While it wasn't exactly a shock that Tim Hudson signed elsewhere this off-season, it will be hard for many to accept the fact he won't be in a Braves uniform for the first time in nine seasons. Instead, he will be returning to the Bay area, about 20 minutes west of where he began his career in Oakland. The 2 year $23M deal with the Giants was both longer and more costly than the Braves could offer, but it is a great deal for Tim considering his age and injury circumstance.
Looking back, Hudson was a hot commodity after the 2004 season after spending six seasons in Oakland. The money-ballin' A's were looking to deal their frontline starter in hopes of reeling in some younger, cost-controlled talent. The Braves were able to swoop in and grab him in a trade for Charles Thomas, Juan Cruz and Dan Meyer in December of 2004. The blockbuster deal would turn out in the Braves' favor, as none of the players dealt went on to have any sort of success at the major league level. Thomas was horrific for the A's in the following season and was out of baseball by 2008. Cruz is still hanging around in the majors but hasn't really done anything of note; he pitched 32 innings for the A's, racking up a 7.44 ERA. Meyer would go on to throw 113.1 career innings at the major league level, posting a 5.46 ERA. In short, this deal wound up being an absolute steal for Atlanta.
Hudson threw 1,573 regular season innings with Atlanta, more than twice as many as the next closest pitcher since 2005 (our old friend Jair Jurrjens was second with 720 IP). He started a total of 243 games, making one relief appearance during the 2008 season.
There is no question that what Hudson did on the field for Atlanta was extremely valuable. Statistically, I think it's fair to say he was good; not great or "ace" level like he was in prior seasons with the A's. This isn't intended to be negative or a knock on Hudson, but going back and looking at his career, I found it very interesting the contrast in numbers from the time with his respective clubs.
Of course, some of this discrepancy is due to the fact that all of his prime seasons were spent with the A's. Some forget, including myself, he didn't arrive in Atlanta until age 29 (turned 30 mid-season). According to FanGraphs version of WAR, Hudson only had one season with the Braves that was more valuable than his worst season in Oakland. Since coming over, Hudson ranked 35th in fWAR among all starters in the league, compared to 6th in the league with Oakland. For further comparison purposes, he was neck and neck with guys like Derek Lowe and Carlos Zambrano in fWAR (Hudson/Lowe have scary similar lines). Now I will admit, an FIP-based fWAR may not do him justice because he has proved to out pitch these estimators by 1/3 of a run over the course of his career. In the end, while he may not have been the true ace the team may have hoped for, there is no doubt he was still a durable frontline starter that all 30 teams would clamor for.
Unfortunately, the postseason success did not exactly come as hoped. Hudson made only three postseason starts with the Braves, two in 2005 against the Astros and one against his current team, the Giants, in 2010. Atlanta went 0-3 in these starts. Again, this isn't a knock on Tim, but I do think provides another example of why going out and trading for an "ace" doesn't guarantee any type of postseason success.
Then there are the immeasurables. Mark did a great job touching on this the other day. I agree with his stance that there is definitely some effect to Tim Hudson being around and mentoring the handful of young guys that have been brought through the system in the past nine years, but we just don't really know how much. In fact, Tim nor the young guys might not even be able to tell you about this impact. It could be anything from certain throwing and workout programs, to how to break down mechanics on video, to mentally preparing, to handling life on the road. We simply just don't know the impact, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist
Finally, this wouldn't be complete if we didn't talk about the major impact Tim and his family have made off the field. I think this became pretty clear in the letter he wrote in the AJC. The Hudson Family Foundation has been responsible for raising countless amounts on money to give to charities and organizations that have touched the lives on many. Events such as his Iron Bowl Golf Tournament, taking place today, benefit concerts and holiday events as well as personally reaching out to those in need are truly his biggest footprint. The benefits from his kindness will continue to be seen long after his time in Atlanta is over.
Hudson's off the field legacy will remain as one of the most inspiring and humble players to ever pass through the organization. On the field, he was the face of the rotation that is consistently been one of the best in baseball for the two decades. It will be hard not to continue to root for Tim even though he is gone, but that is the ultimate sign of a truly great player and person.
P.S. RIP Tim Hudson three- and four-run lead stats #neverforget