Tim Hudson had a magical night on Tuesday. He hit a home run. He got that 200th career victory.
Not a bad night’s work.
Hudson reached a magical number with his 200th win. Chances are he might be looked at differently now. If you ask some non-Braves baseball fans, they might be surprised at how quietly Hudson has had an outstanding career.
When the Braves acquired Hudson in December 2004 they envisioned him as the next pitcher to lead the staff. Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were already gone, and John Smoltz was already in his late-30s. Hudson was hand-picked by John Schuerholz as the pitcher that would fit in and carry the mantle from three guys who would one day show up in Cooperstown.
But just imagine if Hudson is in there one day with them, too.
He’s a wily old veteran now, and when you talk with him he likes to tell you how he’s just an old fart trying to make his way in a young man’s game. But Hudson has done enough over the past few years to make you believe he still has some gas left in the tank.
Sure, he turns 38 in July. But he’s Tim Hudson. He can still pitch, as he showed us all Tuesday night against the Nationals.
Remember how great Hudson was when he came to Atlanta? He was 92-39 in his six seasons with Oakland. That’s a .702 winning percentage. You don’t see many pitchers win 70% of their decisions.
You’d almost think they would have made a movie about Hudson, but for some reason, when I looked up “Moneyball” on IMDB.com, he wasn’t listed as one of the characters in that story of the success for the A’s in the early 2000s.
He’d be in the story about the Braves’ success over the past couple of seasons. He’s become what he was for the A’s – the ace. But it didn’t really start out that well for Hudson’s return to the south.
Here’s something you might not remember. The Braves looked to trade Hudson after his second season in Atlanta. He was 13-12 and had a 4.86 ERA in 2006. Thankfully, a trade wasn’t made and Hudson remained in a Braves uniform.
The turning point for Hudson was perhaps his darkest moment in his career. He had Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2008 season. It’s pretty much a common operation now, but there’s never any guarantee a pitcher is going to come back stronger than he was before.
But check out the differences in Hudson’s numbers before and after his TJ surgery. Before the elbow operation, Hudson was 54-38 in 121 games with an ERA of 3.78. That’s not bad, but it wasn’t what he had done in Oakland, either.
Since his return in the 2009 season, Hudson is 54-28 in 108 games with an ERA of 3.25. That’s an ERA lower than what he had in Oakland.
That’s pretty good.
He continues to quiet critics that wonder how long he can continue. Hudson may not be as dominant now as he was a few years ago, but how can you complain with what he’s doing and what he’s done?
And it’s time, considering he has skipped over the 200-win plateau, to examine his career numbers. He’s got 200 wins and 105 losses, that’s a .656 winning percentage and 95 games over .500.
Only 109 people in the history of the sport have more career wins than Hudson, and 50 of them are in the Hall of Fame. A few more, like Maddux, Glavine and Randy Johnson, will join the fraternity when they can in a few years. Mike Mussina could go in next year, while Pedro Martinez will soon follow. Roger Clemens’ candidacy will be a wide-ranging debate for years.
There are two current players with more wins than Hudson – Andy Pettitte with 248 and Roy Halladay with 201. Pettitte is probably a no-brainer for the Hall, especially considering his postseason record. Halladay, well, his candidacy may be on hold as he struggles for the first time in his career.
Taking those eight players out of the equation for a moment - that leaves 51 pitchers with 201 wins or more that are not in the Hall of Fame. We all know the 300-win guaranteed membership is something that might change in the coming years. That threshold will undoubtedly be lowered as it becomes obvious how more difficult it will be for pitchers to reach that milestone.
So how does Hudson, or how will Hudson, stack up against other pitchers with 200 wins or more in a candidacy for the Hall of Fame? In looking at those other 51 pitchers, the reason most did not make the Hall was their winning percentage. There are plenty of pitchers that had great careers, with a high number of wins, but they also lost more than you’d want for a Hall of Famer.
Of those other 51 pitchers, only five had a winning percentage of .600 or greater – Bob Caruthers (.688), Carl Mays (.623), Jack Stivette (.606), Charlie Buffington (.605) and David Wells (.604). Of those five, you have to wonder if Wells will actually get in one day, considering he had 239 career wins and that might look even more impressive in 20 years.
Obviously, only Caruthers had a better winning percentage than Hudson’s current mark of .656. Caruthers played when baseball started, in the 1880s. And, by the way, when you look at those other eight pitchers who are not yet in the Hall, Hudson’s winning percentage is topped by only Martinez, Halladay and Clemens.
But how many wins could Hudson finish with? Well, using his last few years as a guide, and assuming the Braves will remain a competitive and successful team, we can predict a few things. If he stays healthy, Hudson could win at least 15 games this season. He’s got three right now, and it’s probably a safe bet he has a good chance at winning at least 12 more.
That would give him 212 wins for his career. His future team is uncertain, as Hudson can become a free agent at season’s end. But it would be a shock if Hudson did not finish his career in Atlanta. He’s practically playing at home, and he and his wife Kim do a great deal of charity work in the Atlanta area. You don’t even have to ask Hudson. It’s well-known he’d prefer to finish in a Braves uniform.
So if the Braves brought him back on a two-year contract, that would keep him in uniform through his 40th birthday in July of 2015. If we are conservative, we could assume Hudson could win 23 games in those final two years. That would put him at 235 career wins.
If he has that type of success, it’s unlikely Hudson’s winning percentage would fall much below its current mark of .656. If you combine 235 wins and a winning percentage of .656, it would be very difficult to make a case against Hudson for the Hall of Fame. His resume would be very impressive.
His negative is he’s not yet won a major award, except for the Comeback Player of the Year award after he came back from Tommy John surgery. He’s a three-time All-Star, but he’s never won the Cy Young Award. Hudson finished second in 2000 and has finished fourth on two other occasions.
He led the league in wins only once, in that 2000 season when he had 20. So it’s not like Hudson will have a bevy of awards to talk about when his career is over.
But there’s no doubt what people will say that may still count in this day and age of having to prove something with a long list of accolades.
Tim Hudson is a very good pitcher. He wins almost two-thirds of his decisions. That should still count, right?
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.