The season Tim Hudson has been having is quite odd. Most of us at Talking Chop have discussed, as have the guys over at Fangraphs. An expected regression has been noted by many saber slanted writers. I have agreed, but I also added the regression could be minimal if he started to throw the ball better, meaning striking out more batters and walking less.
Here’s a look at Hudson’s stats on June 1, his stats after June 1, and his career numbers.
June 1 Since June 1 Career
IP 64.1 78.1 2,194.2
ERA 2.24 2.53 3.42
FIP 4.39 3.99 3.82
xFIP 4.52 4.36 3.82
GB% 67.3% 58.9% 49.2%
LD% 10.6% 13.0% 18.0%
K/9 3.78 5.40 6.02
BB/9 3.50 2.76 2.79
BABIP .222 .252 .286
As you can see, his stats are starting to normalize somewhat. His ERA has begun to rise while his FIP and xFIP are coming back down closer to his career numbers. His strikeout rate is getting better as is his walk rate, but his BABIP and ground ball percentage are still abnormally low in comparison to his career, and in comparison to most of the league. Hudson leads the N.L. in both GB% and BABIP.
Now, the task is to find out why hitters are hitting so many ground balls and not getting hits when they make contact.
The first thing that pops out is that batters have made contact on 71.6% of swings outside of the zone. For Hudson’s career, hitters have made contact on just 53.1% of swings taken on balls outside of the strike zone, the highest mark before this season being 54.1% in 2007, not including the 42.1 inning season last year.
Most of the time, if hitters are making contact on balls outside of the strike zone, the balls aren’t going to be hit very hard. Forcing batters to make weak contact on balls outside of the zone will usually raise a pitcher’s ground ball ratio and lower their BABIP, since BABIP does not take into account how hard balls are hit.
I have reason to believe this is the main reason for Hudson’s continued success on balls in play this season. 45.5% of Hudson’s pitches have been in the strike zone, down dramatically from his career 52.1% mark. Prior to this season, he had never thrown less than half of his pitches for strikes.
Hudson has, purposely or not, gotten batters to swing and make weak contact with more balls by throwing fewer strikes. Whether this is a trend that can, or will, be continued over a full season is yet to be seen, but it is a trend that has certainly benefited his results so far this year.