Saturday, February 6, 2010

Eight points about Orlando Hudson

1) He is a switch-hitter who is notably stronger against right-handed pitchers (career OPS as LH hitter .796, as RH hitter .725). As a counterpoise to the Twins left-handed bats (Joe Mauer-Justin Morneau-Jason Kubel-Denard Span), he's lacking.

2) He is slated to hit second for the Twins, but he has actually been a more effective hitter batting third — OPS .793 in 979 plate appearances in the three-hole, .770 in 1,264 PA second.

That is more likely to be the result of environment than batting order. Most of his time hitting third came with Arizona, and the Diamondbacks' home park is a very good place to hit, certainly better than his home park last season.

3) His highest OPS in four American League seasons: .779 (2004, with Toronto). His lowest OPS in four National League seasons: .774 (2009, Los Angeles).

4) He has been the regular second baseman for two playoff teams in the past three seasons, but has a total of four postseason plate appearances — part of a pattern of late-season injuries.

In 2007, when Arizona won the NL West title, Hudson broke his thumb in August. Done after 107 games. In 2008 — not a playoff season — he dislocated his wrist in September. In 2009, with Los Angeles, he got benched late in the season in favor of Ronnie Belliard. There was speculation that his wrist was bothering him last September and October, but he denies it.

5) He is not particularly fast — mobile enough to handle a middle infield job, but not a true burner. Even in his 20s, he never hit double digits in triples and only once stole as many as 10 bases. Last year he was eight of nine stealing — a very good percentage, but not a lot of attempts.

Baseball Info System's baserunning stats make him +8 last season, most of that from the base stealing.

6) His career is following a pattern that appears to be a new standard — the first four (cheap) seasons with his first team (Toronto); the late-arbitration/first free agency seasons with a second team (Arizona); and a nomad phase now that he's in his 30s.

We are seeing few long-term contracts these days for non-superstars ages 30 and up. Blame (or credit) the Bill James influence for this; increasing numbers of front offices now know that the vast majority of players peak at age 27, and that from age 30 on, half of the players wash out of the majors every two years.

7) Hudson was selected in the 43rd round of the 1997 amateur draft, Not many players selected that late make it to the majors, much less enjoy the success Hudson has.

In 2002, when he was regarded as the Blue Jays' top prospect, he lost out on the second base job in spring training to Joey Lawrence, who had been a first-round pick in 1996. Lawrence washed out, and Hudson got the job a bit belatedly.

This might be seen as evidence that first-round picks get more chances than 48th round picks. Or it might be linked to a Hudson quote that spring about then-new Toronto general manager J.P. Riccardi:
“When I first met J.P., I thought, ‘Smooth cat – smooth-lookin’ cat. He looks like he was a pimp back in his day.”

Riccardi, it is safe to say, was not amused.

7) Through all the shifts in context, he has been remarkably consistent in overall value. His high in win shares since 2003 is 21; his low is 15. To put that in context, Alexi Casilla has 14 win shares in his entire career.

8) He is a very pronounced ground ball hitter. Last season, according to Baseball Info Systems, he had 2.17 grounders to every fly ball — the sixth highest such ratio in the majors.

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