We live in a statistical age where the “Win” statistic for starting pitchers is considered a highly overrated statistic. I still struggle with that, to be honest with you. I generally acknowledge the new statisticians that cover our game are smarter than I and I generally love their findings. But I’m not sure I am totally on board with this “Win” thing. Tim Hudson is one of the reasons why.
Tim Hudson has been a very good pitcher for quite a long time. His peripherals will never blow you away though. He has averaged 6.1 strikeouts per nine for his career. His career WHIP is 1.225. His career ERA is 3.39 and his career FIP is 3.79. That FIP is ranked 60th of all starters since 1999 when his career started.
And yet, Tim Hudson is one of the most prolific winners in the Majors since he began his career. He was 92-39 for the Oakland A’s, a winning percentage of .702. He went 113-72 for his years with the Braves, a .611 winning percentage. And so far, he is 7-2 for the Giants, a .778 winning percentage.
The case can be made that he IS the most prolific winner since his career began. His career record of 212-113 gives him a career winning percentage of .652 and those 212 wins are the most in the Big Leagues since 1999 topping both Sabathia and Halladay for the top spot. Only Buehrle has thrown more innings in that time.
Wins Above Replacement or WAR tells us that Sabathia and Halladay have been worth ten to twelve more “wins” than Hudson during that time. But neither “won” as many games.
Does that have any value? Most say no. I am torn. I want to believe, but through the years, if I needed a pitcher to win a game, I would have wanted Tim Hudson to be starting it. I probably could make that case better if his post season record wasn’t so poor. But anyway, Hudson makes me question the whole win equation.
Here are a couple of my theories as to why he has been so successful over the years. First, if his team scores at least three runs, he usually wins. When his teams scores 3-5 runs, he is 72-46. When his team scores more runs than five, he is 120-5. He has given up more than five earned runs in a start only 72 times in 439 starts. In other words, he usually keeps his team in the game.
A way to show that statistically is his average Game Score and his quality start percentage. The quality start percentage average in baseball in 2014 is 52%. Last year it was 53%. The average Game Score this year has been 52 and last year it was 52. Tim Hudson has averaged a Game Score of 55 for his career and a has a career quality start percentage of 55%.
But it goes even deeper than that, which is a good way of putting it because Tim Hudson has a history of going deep into games. The average innings pitched by all starting pitchers in both 2014 and 2013 are 5.9 innings pitched with 92 pitches. Tim Hudson has averaged 6.6 innings per start for his career with an average of 95 pitches.
In other words, he averages almost an inning more per start than average with only three more pitches thrown. He is efficient and he goes deep. And he is still doing it as his average is actually better than those numbers for 2014.
When you go longer into games, the bullpen has to get less outs and that is another good way to make sure your wins don’t get blown very often.
Tim Hudson is getting close (by WAR) to a Hall of Fame discussion. Baseball-reference.com has his career at 58.8 rWAR. Fangraphs.com has him at 49.9. His winning percentage is the 23rd highest of all time and higher than guys like Ron Guidry, Lefty Gomez, Jim Palmer, Randy Johnson, Pete Alexander and is the highest among all active pitchers. It may not mean anything. But, gosh, it sure is hard to ignore.