After virtually replacing LHP Barry Zito in the San Francisco Giants‘ starting rotation over the offseason, veteran right-hander Tim Hudson immediately made the club’s staff more competitive. Hudson has lived up to the two-year, $23 million deal the Giants signed him to over the MLB offseason thus far, registering a 3-1 record with a 2.19 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 37.0 innings of work over five starts.
The Giants are going to contend for the NL West crown in 2014, and Hudson is a big reason why. While San Francisco remains susceptible to prolonged team-wide slumps, their starting rotation is greatly improved. As a team, the Giants have managed to post a collective .234 batting average over 23 games to rank 24th in baseball, forcing added pressure on the pitching staff to perform at a high level. They haven’t backed down from the challenge.
On paper, the Giants’ numbers don’t appear outrageously impressive. They’ve given up just two fewer earned runs than the league average (83) and have allowed opponents to compile a gaudy .261 batting average against. The Giants’ pitching staff has also recorded only 10 quality starts, ranking 22nd in the league.
Somehow, San Francisco has overcome seemingly deceiving pitching statistics in the midst of a grueling team-wide slump that saw the club score 10 runs over a six-game stretch last week.
While the back end of the Giants’ rotation remains rocky, Hudson has become an irreplaceable commodity. Tim Lincecum (1-1, 6.43 ERA) and Ryan Vogelsong (0-1, 7.71 ERA) are both big-time question marks for the Giants, although Lincecum appears more capable of helping the Giants win than Vogelsong at this point. Inserting Hudson in place of Zito has turned the Giants’ rotation from mediocre at best to above average.
Although the Giants’ rotation isn’t anywhere near as dominant as it was when they won two World Series titles in three seasons, they’re good enough as a unit to help the team make the playoffs.
Over the course of a 162-game season, Hudson will add at least 6-8 wins to the Giants’ final record in comparison to last season. Hudson owns more wins (208) than any other active pitcher in baseball. He also boasts the lowest walk total among qualifying pitchers in baseball, currently boasting an incredible (but unsustainable) 0.49 BB/9. Hudson has averaged a 13-7 record per season in 16 years. To compare, Zito posted a dismal 5-11 mark for San Francisco in 2013.
Hudson, by himself, would statistically transform the Giants from a 76-win team in 2013 to an 84-win team. He’s the Giants’ biggest X-factor, despite taking the ball just once every five days. The impact he’s made on the Giants in just five starts is enormous. Hudson is one of the most reliable pitchers in all of baseball, a fact that he consistently exhibits for the Giants.