How Will Tim Hudson Perform in His First LCS?
Tim Hudson wanted one last chance to pitch for a winner.
As a free agent this offseason, Hudson was a decent buy-low candidate, a veteran arm who wasn't expected to carry a pitching staff but who could serve as a useful starter in the rotation of a potential playoff contender. Hudson signed a 2-year, $23 million deal with the Giants during the winter because he recognized the Giants were a team that was almost always in the playoffs.
Shrewd move, Mr. Hudson.
And now here he is, preparing to start Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the first time in his long career he's ever made it to an LCS.
That's hard to believe, though. Hudson is 38 years old and has pitched more than 3000 innings of regular season baseball. He has played for perennial playoff contenders, the Oakland Athletics and the Atlanta Braves, during his career. And he is no postseason virgin, either. This is his seventh run through the playoffs, having made nine career playoff starts heading into this October.
Yet this is the first time he's ever made it out of the first round, after 62 career playoff innings.
Hudson's past inability to reach the League Championship Series was largely not his fault. His postseason ERA of 3.19 (including this year) is quite good. But in 2002, he struggled a bit and gave up six earned runs in two starts for Oakland, and in 2005 with Atlanta, he gave up eight earned runs in two starts against the Astros. However, he performed well in his other three playoff appearances with the A's and pitched seven shutout innings in his 2010 NLDS appearance with the Braves.
Today, Hudson gets a chance to give the San Francisco Giants a two-games-to-one series edge in the NLCS.
Hudson was brilliant in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Nationals this year (that epic 18-inning affair) when he pitched 7.1 innings and gave up just a single run on 7 hits with no walks and 8 strikeouts.
Hudson's regular season for San Francisco was rather good, too.
Hudson's 189.1 innings and 31 starts this year were the most he had thrown since 2011. His walk rate of 1.62 was by far the lowest of his career (his previous low was 2.10 in 2004) and significantly better than his career average of 2.64. He did struggle a bit in the second half of the season though, posting an ERA of 4.73 in 13 starts after the All-Star break, higher than the 2.87 ERA he put up in the first half. And his 8.72 ERA in 5 September starts certainly had Giants fans a bit worried that he was running out of steam.
Approaching 40 years of age, Hudson doesn't quite have the stamina he used to, and while he regained his successful ways in the playoffs, going deep into games is not something he does at this point.
By the time the sixth inning rolls around today, the Giants will likely have a hand near the bullpen phone. Hudson's ERA in the sixth this year was 6.53. This indicates either that is when he begins to tire, and/or that is when batters get a better idea of how to hit him in their second and third times through the lineup. And given the Cardinals' sudden discovery of left-handed power (Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter, etc.), manager Bruce Bochy will be watching him closely as the game moves into the middle-to-late innings.
But there he will be, taking the mound in his first League Championship Series start ever against a red-hot St. Louis lineup, hoping his first LCS start will not be his last start of 2014.