Tag: Tim Hudson

Tim Hudson Injury: Updates on Pitcher’s Ankle Surgery and Recovery

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher has undergone offseason surgery in his right ankle. Luckily for the San Francisco Giants, he’s expected to be good to go by Opening Day.

Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle has the report:

John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle has more:

Hudson, 39, went 9-13 with a 3.57 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 120 strikeouts in 189.1 innings pitched. In four postseason starts, he went 0-1 with 4.29 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 16 strikeouts in 21.0 innings pitched, playing a role in the team’s World Series title. 

While Hudson’s best days are certainly behind him, the veteran pitcher was a reliable option at the bottom of San Francisco’s rotation and should be a quality innings eater for the team again this season. The fact that he should be ready to go for the start of the season is a positive development for the Giants as they look to defend their title.


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Washington Nationals vs. San Francisco Giants: Keys for Each to Win NLDS Game 2

When San Francisco Giants starter Jake Peavy toed the rubber in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals, he was winless in five postseason starts with an abysmal 9.27 ERA and a fitting 1.925 WHIP.

Well, Peavy and his teammates walked off as winners thanks to his efforts, generally solid relief pitching and timely hitting from Joe Panik, Buster Posey and Brandon Belt. It was a huge win for the Giants.

Next up is a Game 2 matchup between Nationals ace Jordan Zimmermann (14-5, 2.66 ERA, 1.072 WHIP) and veteran Giants hurler Tim Hudson (9-13, 3.57, 1.231) Saturday afternoon.

Here are some keys for each team to take a critical Game 2.


Keys for the Nationals

Make Tim Hudson Pay for His Mistakes

In the final month of the regular season, Hudson went 0-4 with an 8.72 ERA and a .357/.400/.531 slash line for opposing batters. It wasn’t pretty.

In digging a bit deeper on his player card at BrooksBaseball.net, we see that almost every pitch in his repertoire failed him.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with what those numbers indicate, it is the batting average on balls that were put in the field of play. What they tell us is that far too many batters squared up Hudson’s offerings over the last month.

There is a certain amount of luck involved, of course, but the bottom line is that Hudson isn’t locating the ball very well. If the Nationals can jump on his mistakes, it could mean an early lead. And with the quality of the Nationals’ pitching staff, early leads are usually held.


Keep Joe Panik Contained

It goes without saying that Zimmermann has to keep Posey, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval in check during Game 2. For as dangerous as those three can be, however, it will be as important to keep Panik off the basepaths.

He’s been a terror.

Starting on Aug. 2 through the end of the regular season, the second baseman put up a .338/.367/.414 slash line with eight doubles and 25 runs scored. In the wild-card matchup with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he went 3-for-5. And during Game 1 on Friday, he went 2-for-5, driving in one run and scoring another after a huge triple to lead off the seventh inning.

He’s been so good, he’s set a franchise record.

Another thing to keep in mind: In three games at Nationals Park during the regular season, Panik slashed out at .417/.462/.667. Notably, he had a big three-run home run that helped end a 10-game winning streak the Nationals had been on in August.

It won’t just be on the Nationals’ starters, though, as Panik can start a late-inning rally, just as he did in Game 1. It is imperative that the left-handed hitter is off the basepaths throughout the contest.

On the bright side, Panik is 0-for-3 vs. Zimmermann, so if the big right-hander can replicate his past success, the Nationals already have an advantage.


Zimmermann Must Keep the Big Guys Down

We’ve already touched on the need to keep Sandoval, Posey and Pence contained, but two of them are of particular interest to Zimmermann.

Of the three, Sandoval and Pence have given Zimmermann fits over their careers. In 20 at-bats, for example, Pence is slashing out at .400/.455/.700 with two home runs and four RBI. Meanwhile, Sandoval has a .462/.500/.538 slash line with a double in 13 at-bats.

The bottom line is this: If Zimmermann can limit the damage from the players who have historically given him trouble, he will breathe life into the crowd and give confidence to his teammates.


Keys for the Giants

Find a Way to Get to Zimmermann Early—and Often

On Aug. 23, the Giants got off to a 2-0 first-inning lead thanks to a two-run home run by Pence. After that, Zimmermann retired 23 of the next 28 hitters and was in control throughout.

“He didn’t get rattled at all (after the homer),” center fielder Denard Span noted, via CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman. “If anything, it seemed like he just focused a little bit more and buckled down and kept them right there.” 

It is what he’s done for the majority of his career.

For the Giants to find success, they need to keep the pressure on. That means working the count and not letting Zimmermann take control of an at-bat. It is easier written than accomplished, to be sure, but it is what must be done.


Keep Denard Span and Anthony Rendon off the Basepaths

Attempting to keep the No. 1 and No. 2 hitters in manager Matt Williams’ lineup off the bases is common sense. After all, the fewer run-scoring opportunities the middle of the Nationals’ batting order has, the better it is for the Giants.

Doing it against Span and Anthony Rendon takes on added value, as Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post explains:

In the postseason, top-of-the-order, all-fields hitters with high on-base percentages, low strikeouts, stolen base speed, bunting guile and hit-and-run creativity often have a better chance to cope with the pitching aces of playoff teams than free swingers who can be neutered by pure swing-and-miss stuff. …

… Both are better base runners than they are sprinters; they get fine jumps, read balls in the air accurately and cut bases sharply with no waste.

They are just dynamic ballplayers.

And since Hudson no longer has “swing-and-miss stuff” he is going to have to locate effectively and change speeds if he hopes to keep them off the bases. For the season, Span scored 94 runs and had a .355 on-base percentage while Rendon scored 111 times and finished with a .351 OBP.

If the Giants can jump on Zimmermann early and hold the top of the order in check, they could very well head to AT&T Park up 2-0 in the best-of-five series. If not, the Nationals may even the NLDS at a game apiece and gain some needed momentum for Game 3.


Unless otherwise noted, statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference. Game information is courtesy of MLB.com

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As Bochy Works to Put Pieces Together, Giants Will Live or Die with Pitching

SAN FRANCISCO — One night after Madison Bumgarner lit up AT&T Park by taking a perfect game into the eighth inning, Tim Hudson was electric. Stretch-run energy buzzed through the Giants clubhouse in that old, familiar way.

“This is the fun time of year,” Buster Posey said after blasting the second walk-off homer of his career. “We’re fortunate to be fighting for the division.   

“A lot of us know what we’re capable of doing if we do get into the playoffs.”


But this is a tricky team to decipher, one of the most difficult to peg of manager Bruce Bochy’s 20-year managerial career.

“I’d say so,” Bochy agreed in that gruff, bear-like voice that has directed so many past winners.

No doubt, key injuries have derailed the Giants. He might not be a marquee name nationally, but it is no coincidence that San Francisco’s swan dive from those heady days of leading the NL West by 9.5 games (June 8) coincided with leadoff hitter Angel Pagan’s two-month absence with a back injury.

Brandon Belt’s frequent trips to the DL, Hector Sanchez’s concussion and the Giants’ decision to not add significant payroll at the trading deadline this year have opened some holes and limited their ability to plug others, stretching a thin lineup to the point of breaking.

But where the old Giants magic is really lacking is on the mound, with Matt Cain out for the season, Tim Lincecum in a funk, Sergio Romo barred from closing and a rotation that is tied for eighth in the NL with a 3.68 ERA.

Bottom line: Unlike the old days here, San Francisco’s pitching is no longer good enough to cover lineup shortcomings.

Which is why this week’s hit parade of Bumgarner, Hudson and Yusmeiro Petit, who set a major league record by retiring his 46th consecutive hitter Thursday afternoon, at least offered encouragement.

“It’s been a roller coaster, no question,” said Hudson, 39, now 9-9 with a 2.90 ERA. “Anytime you lose one of your top rotation guys.”

“He gets that blood-in-the-water sensation whenever he gets a lead,” reliever Jeremy Affeldt said of Cain. “He’s not going to lose it.”

The Giants staff has already lost enough this season.

Cain has been as big a fixture at AT&T as that ginormous Coca-Cola bottle beyond the left field stands. He made 30 or more starts in eight consecutive seasons before he had to pull the plug this summer after 15. Surgery to remove bone chips and have some bone spurs cleaned up was done earlier this month. Given his workload over the years, it could have been worse. Much worse.

As for Lincecum, the Giants should be deeply concerned with him given his 9.49 ERA over his past six starts. Everybody agrees a time out is in order.

“Just trying to take it slow,” Lincecum said. “Day by day and see where it goes.”

The immensely likeable Lincecum can be easily derailed, which is leading some to wonder whether the absence of Sanchez, who likely is out for the season with a concussion, has sent him spinning off his axis. Remember, it took Lincecum a bit to gather his wits when the Giants traded one of his favorite catchers, Bengie Molina, in 2010 to clear space for Posey.

“It’s a good question,” Bochy said of the Sanchez-Lincecum connection. “It’s a hard one to answer because I know Tim got used to throwing to Hector. Nothing against the kid, [Andrew] Susac, who has done a nice job. But whether that did play into a part of Tim’s struggles, I don’t know.”

It is not the only mystery Bochy and the Giants must solve. The phenomenal pitching that carried them to World Series wins in 2010 and ’12 is fading. This year’s rotation, as noted, is tied for eighth in the NL in ERA after finishing 13th (4.37) in 2013.

That may be an improvement, but from ’09 to ’12, Giants starters never ranked worse than fifth in the league, and they ranked either second or third in three of those four seasons.

Still, as of Thursday, the Giants are a playoff team. Though they trail the Dodgers by 4.5 games in the NL West, they doggedly cling to the NL’s second wild-card slot, 1.5 games ahead of the Braves.

This is all part of why Posey uses the word “fortunate” when describing his team’s positioning right now.

Veteran Jake Peavy was acquired from Boston to pitch. With Cain out, he’s a necessity. Petit has replaced Lincecum in the rotation—for how long, Bochy cannot yet say. He simply doesn’t know. The veteran manager, whose 1,600th career win Wednesday moved him past Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda to No. 19 on the all-time list, has had success in the past shuffling the rotation with guys such as Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong.

“When you get diminishing returns, you’ve got to change it up,” Bochy said, and so he has.

Scouts were still raving about Bumgarner’s dominance a day after he throttled the Rockies. Hudson, Petit…things are beginning to perk back up around San Francisco. Every day left on the schedule is another day for the Giants to minimize the damage done by their 10-16 June, 12-14 July and their 12-24 record over their past 36 home games.

As Affeldt said, “Baseball can turn around in a hurry if you don’t tuck your tail between your legs. If you get knocked down seven times, you’ve got to get up that eighth time.”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at CBSSports.com.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball @ScottMillerBbl.

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Is San Francisco Giants’ Tim Hudson the Best Free-Agent Signing of 2014?

When the San Francisco Giants inked Tim Hudson to a two-year, $23 million deal in November, they wanted him to do two things: Stay healthy and pitch better than his old Oakland Athletics rotation-mate, Barry Zito, whose albatross contract with the Giants was finally expiring.

Two months into the season, Hudson has vaulted past those modest expectations and emerged as arguably the offseason’s best free-agent signing—and one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Madison Bumgarner is among the game’s elite left-handers, and Ryan Vogelsong has regained the command that made him an unlikely All-Star in 2011. But the Giants rotation has two significant question marks.

Tim Lincecum, who vacillates between effectively wild and flat-out ineffective, has posted a 4.97 ERA through 13 erratic starts. And former ace Matt Cain has already landed on the disabled list twice (though he did look a lot like vintage Cain in his recent return from a hamstring strain).

Yet the Giants have the best record in baseball thanks in no small part to Hudson.

Entering Tuesday his 1.97 ERA and 0.96 WHIP rank first and second in the National League, respectively. His ERA+, which adjusts for park and league, is 169, seventh-best in the majors, per Baseball-Reference.com. He’s gone at least seven innings in nine of his 11 starts (not counting a rain-shortened washout in Colorado).

And he’s done it in typical Tim Hudson fashion: mixing heavy sinkers and crisp cutters to slice off corner strikes and induce ground balls at a 58.2 percent rate, his highest since 2010, per FanGraphs.

After a stellar May 27 start against the Chicago Cubs in which he tossed seven shutout innings, Hudson joked with Carl Steward of the San Jose Mercury News that he’s doing it “with smoke and mirrors,” adding, “I hope they don’t think I’m going to be this good all year.”

Later, he ditched the modesty:

From a command standpoint, I think this is the best Ive been, throwing strikes and letting the guys behind me make plays,he said. At this point in my career, I dont really try to overpower anybody, I dont try to overthrow or throw through my mechanics. I just try to trust what I have and let it work.

Hudson pitching well is no surprise. The veteran sinkerballer and 200-game winner has been one of baseball’s most consistent arms during a sterling 16-year career with Oakland and the Atlanta Braves. But no one expected Hudson to have his best season at age 38, even at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park—especially considering the way his 2013 campaign ended.

While covering first base in a game between the Braves and New York Mets last July, Hudson suffered a fractured right ankle. The injury, which left him crumpled on the field in agony, required surgery and ended the right-hander’s season; some questioned whether he’d ever pitch again.

Certainly, the injury lowered Hudson’s stock and allowed the Giants to sign him for fewer years and less money than other free-agent hurlers such as Ubaldo Jimenez (four years, $50 million from the Baltimore Orioles), Matt Garza (four years, $50 million from the Milwaukee Brewers) and Ricky Nolasco (four years, $49 million from the Minnesota Twins).

Yet Hudson has outperformed them all.

Hold his ERA up next to Garza’s (4.42), Jimenez’s (5.01) or Nolasco’s (5.65), then look at those contracts again. The best comparison stats-wise for Hudson is the big free-agent fish of 2014, Masahiro Tanaka, who got seven years and $155 million from the New York Yankees.

Sure, Tanaka is 13 years Hudson’s junior and has lived up to the hype that followed him from Japan. For now, though, Hudson is providing equal value at a fraction of the price.

There’s a lot of baseball left. Hudson has already missed time with a hip strain, and in his last start, he looked mortal, laboring through five wobbly innings and surrendering a season-high nine hits. Ultimately, though, he allowed only three runs and kept his team in the game—a game the Giants won, 5-4.

San Francisco has won a lot with Hudson on the hill—at a .750 clip to be precise. He’s on track to make his fourth All-Star team and has even emerged as a dark-horse Cy Young candidate. He’s earned the respect of teammates and coaches and embraced a mentor role in the Giants’ close-knit clubhouse, per CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly.

“When you see a veteran the first thing you ask is, ‘How has he stayed in the game so long? How has he simplified?’” Lincecum said of Hudson during spring training.

Simplifiedis one way of putting it. Exceeding all expectationsis another.

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San Francisco Giants’ 2014 Season Preview: Predicting Each SP’s Numbers

If you followed the San Francisco Giants in 2013, you’re probably well aware that the production from the starting rotation dipped so dramatically that the then-reigning champs saw a 32-point increase in their team ERA, including an 80-point jump from 2011.

But Barry Zito and his 9.56 road ERA are gone, and veteran Tim Hudson is in as the replacement. Add in Matt Cain’s second-half success (more on that in a second) and Tim Lincecum’s continuous improvement, and the outlook is relatively bright for the once-heralded Giants rotation. Let’s take a look at what to expect from the five starters in 2014.


Matt Cain

Cain’s numbers from 2013 are a bit deceiving when trying to project his 2014 totals. Yes, his 4.00 ERA was alarmingly high, but consider this: After the All-Star break, Cain had a 2.36 ERA.

Why did the Giants righty make such a drastic improvement? Quite simply, Cain regained his command in the second half. According to FanGraphs, his walk rate dipped from 7.9 to 6.1, and he allowed just 0.87 home runs per nine innings, a huge dip from the 1.29 total that marked his disastrous first half.

That’s a testament to Cain’s ability to better locate the ball in the strike zone, an inability that plagued him in the first half to the tune of 16 home runs allowed.

Don’t expect Cain to come close to matching those fantastic second-half totals this season; he stranded an astonishing 84.5 percent of runners after the break, a total he can’t match for an entire season. With that being said, expect Cain to once again return to ace-like form.

Projection: 14-7, 3.05 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 175 Ks



Madison Bumgarner

There’s not much to say about Bumgarner, except that the Giants could have used four more of him in 2013. The young lefty stepped in as the staff ace when the rest of the staff faltered, and he put together a 2.77 ERA with a minuscule .199 opponents’ batting average.

Opponents also had a .251 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) against Bumgarner, fifth-lowest in the majors according to FanGraphs. Conventional wisdom says that total will start to move upward toward the league average, but I’d argue that we can expect a similar BABIP, and thus a similar overall level of dominance, from MadBum in 2014.

Why? Because Bumgarner still possesses his nasty arsenal of pitches, and when he doesn’t strike out batters, they’re often weakly rolling over his pitches, as evidenced by MadBum‘s 46.8 ground ball percentage.

“I love the way he goes about it. No emotion,” said Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, per Henry Schulman of The San Francisco Chronicle. “He just goes out there and competes. On the field, you just like to see that mentality. He gives up eight, or he shuts them out, and you see no difference in his attitude and mind-set.”

Manager Bruce Bochy has similar admiration for MadBum.

“I don’t put a ceiling on this kid,” Bochy said, per Schulman. “What he did in 2010, how he handled the playoffs and the World Series, he’s got a great makeup. He’s a big, strong guy who wants to get better.”

That drive to succeed, combined with a near-unhittable repertoire of pitches and promising statistical trends, all point toward another dominant season from Bumgarner.

Projection: 17-8, 2.80 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 210 Ks


Tim Lincecum

Once the ace of the staff, Lincecum is now the most unpredictable starter in the rotation. Gone are the days of accolades and record numbers, but can The Freak return to respectability?

After posting an MLB-worst 5.18 ERA in 2011, Lincecum lowered that total by 81 points last season. As he learns to pitch around hitters instead of trying to blow them away, he will continue to experience growing pains, as we’ve witnessed during the last few seasons. But those growing pains are becoming increasingly infrequent, and the improvement that we’ve seen from Timmy is a testament to that hard work.

There’s also some evidence that points toward a bit of bad luck for Lincecum in 2013. He stranded only 69.4 percent of runners last season, according to FanGraphs, the 10th-lowest total in the majors, and a number that should even out a bit this year. Lincecum also had the 28th-highest BABIP in the majors last season, again a total that could level out a bit.

That doesn’t let him off the hook, but it’s an indication that he could move closer yet to becoming an average MLB starter, which is essentially all the Giants are asking. Though, with the $35 million the club will owe him over the next two seasons, it certainly wouldn’t hurt if he reverted to his Cy Young-worthy performance. (Not going to happen.)

Projection: 11-12, 3.85 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 215 Ks


Tim Hudson

Hudson is coming off a pretty severe injury to his right ankle, so don’t expect any miracles this season. However, consistency is the name of the game when it comes to Hudson’s career, and you can expect more of the same in 2014.

Indeed, the veteran right-hander has never compiled a non-winning season, failing to eclipse a .600 winning percentage only twice in 15 seasons. He also hasn’t had an ERA above 4.00 since 2006, a number he’s reached just twice in his career.

Hudson is now back in the Bay Area, and he’ll once again pitch in a favorable pitcher’s park. (He compiled a 92-39 record in six seasons with the Oakland A’s at the cavernous Oakland Coliseum.) 

According to an Associated Press report, via ESPN, Hudson is progressing reasonably well in his return. He “looked good,” according to Buster Posey, and Bruce Bochy praised the veteran’s mechanics.

“He had a smooth, easy delivery, the same I’ve seen over the years,” Bochy said. “I don’t see him changing anything.”

Assuming Hudson returns from injury in time for the season and doesn’t experience much trouble regaining form, he’s primed for a nice return to the Bay Area.

Projection: 12-9, 3.75 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 120 Ks


Ryan Vogelsong

Perhaps the only pitcher in the rotation who rivals the unpredictable nature of Lincecum is Vogelsong. It’s hard to draw much from the small sample size that constituted Vogelsong‘s 2013 season, but he struggled mightily when he did pitch.

The safe pick would be to project something in between Vogey’s 2013 numbers (5.73 ERA, 1.56 WHIP) and his 2012 totals (3.37, 1.23), but I’m going to go out on a limb and expect a return to 2012 form.

Why? For one, Vogelsong is a true competitor, and he’s talked about how he shoulders the blame for 2013’s failures and how he expects to improve. I also wrote recently that Vogelsong won’t have the expectations that followed his 2011 and 2012 success, thanks to his down season and the Giants’ overall lackluster performance. He’ll begin the season as the No. 5 starter in the rotation, meaning the Giants won’t be asking much of him.

Speaking of the Giants’ down year, another positive that can be drawn from the failure is the additional rest that the starters received due to their lack of participation in the postseason. Perhaps that time off is just what Vogelsong (and the rest of the staff) needs to come out firing in 2014.

Projection: 13-8, 3.55 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 130 Ks

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Why Tim Hudson Will Thrive as a San Francisco Giant

Tim Hudson has been a model of consistency throughout his long career. Entering his 17th season, Hudson has never had a losing record as a starting pitcher and has exceeded 200 innings in eight different seasons. In 2014, Huddy will continue to be a bulldog and add depth to the Giants’ rotation. 

Giants general manager Brian Sabean continued his trend of bringing in veteran guys like Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross and Marco Scutaro when the Giants signed Hudson to a two-year deal in November. Sabean hopes Hudson will help improve the Giants’ starting rotation.

The 38-year-old is coming off a gruesome ankle injury from last season and just began throwing off the mound in late January.

While his injury makes his future a little murkier, Hudson has proven to be one of the best strike-throwers and ground-ball pitchers in the game. In his last full season in 2012, Hudson allowed just 48 walks in 179 innings pitched and finished 16th in the National League with a 1.21 WHIP.

Hudson only allowed 12 home runs that season, third lowest in MLB. He will now be throwing off the mound at the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park that ranked 28th in the league, averaging just .768 home runs per game, .157 less than his old home at Turner Field.

Hudson has the ability to eat up a lot of innings, something that Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum all struggled to do last season. 

According to Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, “It certainly helps fill a very important need for us as we try to get back on track here and get where we were a couple of years ago. I couldn’t be happier or more excited to have Tim, who brings great experience and is a winner. For him to choose us, we’re honored.”

Hudson is a proven clubhouse guy, who becomes the eldest pitcher in the Giants’ rotation and has the chance to mentor the younger guys. Lincecum has a similar stature to Hudson and should look to learn from the veteran, who relies heavily on his off-speed pitches. 

Hudson is a winner and will have success in San Francisco if he can continue to keep his walks down and take advantage of a spacious AT&T Park outfield. 

How many wins will Huddy have this season?

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Grading the San Francisco Giants’ Moves so Far This Offseason

The San Francisco Giants have been one of the most active teams since the 2013 season ended. GM Brian Sabean has aggressively moved to restock the Giants roster, bringing back several familiar faces and adding two new free agents.

The Giants finished this past season in third place in the NL West, with a 76-86 mark. Sabean and the Giants are hoping to recapture the glory of their 2010 and 2012 World Series titles. Fortifying their roster is the first step towards that goal.

In addition, with the Los Angeles Dodgers spending freely with their endless vault of money, the Giants needed an upgrade in talent and have increased their spending. Failing to improve the roster would have likely doomed the Giants to another dismal finish in the NL West.

Let’s take a closer look at the moves the Giants have made, both the additions and the players they have decided to let go. Grades will also be provided.

All stats are courtesy of baseball-reference.com.  All contract details are courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts at baseballprospectus.com.


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What Kind of Pitcher Can Tim Hudson Be for the SF Giants Post-Ankle Injury?

Tim Hudson‘s 2013 season with the Atlanta Braves ended with a gruesome ankle injury, but that didn’t stop the San Francisco Giants from signing the free agent to a two year, $23 million deal this week.

He’ll step into Barry Zito’s slot, replacing his old teammate on the payroll, but can the Giants really expect Hudson to come back from such a dramatic injury and solidify the rotation behind Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner?

Hudson’s ankle injury was one of the toughest to watch in recent memory. Covering first base, he was accidentally stepped on, fracturing the fibula and spraining one of the significant ligaments of the ankle. Those were repaired surgically in late July with the pin fixating the fibula. The pin was removed earlier in November. That removal is a very good indication of his progress.

In congruence with that removal, it appears Hudson is on pace to have a normal spring (h/t to Alex Pavlovic of The Mercury News):

Things are going to plan. 

“The ankle’s coming along just fine, not quite 100 percent right now but it’s well on its way,” Hudson said in a news conference Tuesday, as reported by the Associated Press. “I anticipate in the next month or so start throwing bullpens.”

While the injury was dramatic, the rehab has been typically boring. Bones heal normally and predictably and can easily be monitored. Speaking to sources with knowledge of Hudson’s injury and rehab, Hudson is still relatively early in the rehab process. Due to the timing of the injury, Hudson has been able to essentially do nothing but rest and heal up to this point. I’m told he has done very light rehab and cardio work with the expectation that he would be able to have a normal offseason schedule leading up to next season. 

Hudson, 38, and his agents likely considered more than just money when it came to signing with the Giants. The Giants medical staff, led by Dave Groeschner, has been one of the best of the last decade. Over the last three years, it ranks a bit down from their historical norms. According to my proprietary database, the Giants rank 13th in baseball from 2011-2013 based on days lost to injury. The Braves were ranked 18th over the same period. 

There are no good comparable players for Hudson in terms of this injury. The unique nature of the injury makes it tough to find anything comparable, which is good. Hudson’s injury was to his right (push) ankle, which could cause some issue with force generation. However, the ankle is expected to be stable, which should mitigate any real issues. Hudson’s velocity has trended downward, so he may not have much margin for error if he does lose more to injury and time.

So what can we expect from Hudson’s move back to the Bay Area? One of the most accurate projection engines, Steamer, has Hudson roughly matching his stats from the past two seasons. Remember that in 2012 Hudson was returning from Tommy John surgery; even with his age going up, it’s not unthinkable that a healthy Hudson could exceed these expectations.

I also don’t believe this projection adjusts for AT&T Park, which plays slightly more pitcher-friendly than Turner Field. Current estimates have a win above replacement (WAR) costing just over $7 million. The Giants would gladly take a two-win season, even if it’s overpaying a little for the privilege.

The details of the deal have yet to be released, but there are likely incentives included. Those could be safety nets like innings-pitched bonuses that would be proxies for Hudson’s health and effectiveness. There is also sure to be a “pending physical” in there that would allow the Giants to back out if something unexpected is found. That would be unusual since Hudson’s situation is well-known and he is likely to have submitted to more tests, if not a hands-on examination. 

Hudson should fit well in the rotation and the team. He’s familiar with the Bay Area and the media, so there should be little adjustment in that regard. Dave Righetti is a relatively hands-off pitching coach and Hudson isn’t someone who needs hand-holding or regular work on his mechanics. From a medical standpoint, there is some risk, but I believe both Hudson and the Giants are well-equipped to deal with it. 

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Previewing Free Agent Names the Atlanta Braves Should Be Chasing This Offseason

Like the Red Sox, whose offseason free agent targets I previewed yesterday, the Braves are one of the best teams in baseball without too many weaknesses on their current roster. The difference is that the Sox have several key players headed for free agency while the Braves have just one—catcher Brian McCann. And they could choose to replace him internally. 

So, barring a quick exit from the playoffs, which could intensify their pursuit of an impact player this winter, it could be a very quiet offseason in Atlanta. That doesn’t mean they won’t have their eye on several free agents who could help strengthen the roster and provide the much-needed depth to compete over a long season. 

Here are some free agents they could pursue in four different areas of potential need.

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Atlanta Braves: Grades for Every Player in April

The Atlanta Braves (16-9) have all but wrapped up the first month of the 2013 season.

Highs include a 10-game winning streak and a sweep of the National League East preseason favorite, Washington Nationals. The low point came over the weekend as the Detroit Tigers swept the Braves.The tough series with the Tigers knocked a few players’ grades down a letter.

Here’s a look at the April edition of every player’s’ grade in 2013.

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