Tim Hudson is showing very early on that he’s going to provide tremendous value for both the San Francisco Giants and fantasy baseball owners in 2014. Hudson has consistently been an above average pitcher throughout his 15-year career, but his 2013 season was bogged down by a gruesome ankle injury that ended his season in July and the 3.97 ERA he posted was his highest since 2006. Apparently a few absent months was all it took to drive Hudson’s value down. He went largely undrafted in fantasy leagues this season, and according to ESPN’s average draft position, when he was drafted it was behind guys like Dillon Gee, Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley.
Hudson is set to make his seventh start of the season on Tuesday, and heading into it he’s got a tidy 2.17 ERA to go with a shiny 0.74 WHIP. Hudson can attribute his early season excellence mainly to two things.
First, the veteran right-hander currently has the fourth best ground ball rate in baseball at 57.9 percent, and he should be at the top of the leader board all season long. Hudson’s primary pitch is his sinker — he’s thrown it for 43.4 percent of his pitches this season — and so far in 2014 it has been better than ever. Hudson has done an excellent job keeping his sinker low — 58.4 percent of his sinkers have been in the lower part of the zone or lower — and as a result his ground ball rate on his sinker is 69 percent, the lowest it’s been since 2010. Hudson’s also generating swings-and-misses at a career high rate with his sinker as well. His 6.1 percent swinging strike rate with his sinker is his highest since 2008, and that year he only threw the pitch 63 times (he’s already thrown it 247 times in 2014).
Second, he isn’t walking anybody. Hudson’s 0.39 BB/9 is the best rate in baseball by a substantial margin (David Price is second with a BB/9 of 0.92), and he’s incredibly walked just two batters in 45.1 innings. His control with all of his pitches — not just his sinker — has been impeccable so far this season.
Hudson is currently the fourth-highest pitcher according to ESPN’s player rater and health permitting. I’d be surprised if he didn’t finish the season as a top-40 pitcher. Hudson’s due to regress a little bit — he’s currently sporting a .218 BABIP, and nobody finished last season with a BABIP lower than .240 — but his 2.83 FIP and his 2.93 xFIP suggest that even when the regression hits he’ll be a very useful pitcher.
If you’re a Hudson owner, congratulations; chances are you got a tremendous amount of value on an excellent starting pitcher. If you have the chance to buy Hudson for a reasonable price from an owner who thinks he/she is selling high, make sure you take advantage. Hudson is a bona fide top-40 starting pitcher ,and I’d rather have him over guys like Jered Weaver, Lance Lynn, Tony Cingrani and Homer Bailey for the rest of 2014.