Tim Hudson: The hidden key to the whole Braves’ season?

The Braves have played a bit more than one-fifth of the season, and they’re a game below .500. That’s where they should be, give or take. They’ve looked like an average team: They’re eighth among 16 National League clubs in hitting, seventh in pitching, ninth in fielding.

Being average over the long haul doesn’t seem such an appetizing proposition, but there’s no guarantee these guys will stay that way. They could get worse, sure. But they could, if they can just hang around for a couple of more months, get a lot better in a hurry.

The Braves entered Monday night’s game 2 ½ games out of first place, which is a major blessing. (Then they mustered five singles and one run — that on a double-play grounder — against Jason Marquis and Huston Street and lost to the Rockies.) Neither the Mets nor the Phillies caught a rolling start, and the Marlins have already nose-dived. There’s no reason to think this pitch-and-putt offense can subsist over the full six months, but what if this offense, say, found itself a big bat around, say, July 31st?

Scenario time: Tim Hudson believes he’ll return from Tommy John surgery in August, and a healthy Hudson would make the Braves’ rotation the league’s best. Think about it: Hudson, Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Javier Vazquez and Tom Glavine – who threw a simulated game Monday, by the way, and was encouraged afterward – or Kenshin Kawakami or Tommy Hanson or Kris Medlen in the 5-hole.

Said Bobby Cox: “If we can keep in position or get a lead, [Hudson] could be huge down the stretch.”

Said Hudson: “That’s what I’m hoping. That’s what I want to do.”

Carry things a step further: That would make eight starting pitchers in a five-man rotation. That would render two or three superfluous to immediate needs, which would make for an enticing trade portfolio. Would the Braves part with — just picking a name — Vazquez if — picking another — Matt Holliday was available for two months’ rental? (Vazquez seems trade-able because he’s not a top-of-the rotation guy but he’s dependable and signed through 2011.)

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Said Chipper Jones: “We’re looking at having a really good pitching staff next year. And you have to ask if some of those [pitchers] can be a piece or two you give up to address a need. We’ve got a lot of depth there.”

Yes, the Braves mortgaged the back 40 of the ol’ farm for Mark Teixeira two summers ago, and that availed them nothing. But there’s a difference between trading a 32-year-old starting pitcher and four prized prospects. And there’s also a clear and present need.

At peak capacity, this lineup will hit enough to keep the Braves around .500. (Cox, being the world’s most optimistic man, foresees better things. Why? “Because we haven’t had Mac [Brian McCann] and [Garret] Anderson in there so far.”) But this everyday eight is overly reliant on Chipper Jones, and no self-respecting opponent is apt to pitch to him in a tight game.

Through seven weeks, the Braves have been OK. They’ll have to be better than that over the next four months. One man could be the key to both a stronger rotation and a more robust lineup. Tim Hudson is that man.

127 comments Add your comment

BT

May 18th, 2009
6:46 pm

If Tim does come back strong and if we can get a bat (not a rental) for an expendable pitcher this would be a key.

Do the terms in KK’s contract keep him from going to Gwinnett for a couple of weeks?

Bill

May 18th, 2009
6:47 pm

I agree mark. Hudson would be a big plus. Glavine is still a ????. Trade yes, but it would have to be for more than two months rental. Keep up the good job.

richbrave

May 18th, 2009
6:53 pm

I would love to have HUDDY back in ‘10, but I think he’s the odd-man out next year; that the BRAVES don’t exercise their club option and they release him – barring injuries like last year of course, and melt-downs from rookies such as the three-year saga of JoJO REYES.

Charles H

May 18th, 2009
7:04 pm

Huddy isn’t the key a REAL cleanup hitter is. Hudson would obviously help, but barring injury, the rotation isn’t the problem — signing Kawakami over Adam Dunn is.
If this team had addressed the obvious need for a cleanup hitter, even at the expense of Kawakami, this team would be several games over .500 right now.
As it stands they are just not good enough to win.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
7:09 pm

Obviously this all depends on Hudson being effective when/if he returns, but the Braves are pretty confident he will be.

Supes

May 18th, 2009
7:12 pm

Can Hudson hit cleanup and play the OF? Oh, never mind then. Good one Mark!

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
7:26 pm

I don’t believe there’s anything in Kawakami’s contract that would preclude him being sent to the minors.

Eric

May 18th, 2009
7:26 pm

Any way we can get a big YOUNG bat for one of our top pitching prospects? Don’t you think a pitching needy team would like Medlin or Reyes, or Morton? Maybe we could get a Ryan Braun for Hanson or something.

the truth....

May 18th, 2009
7:43 pm

Oh yeah….great…more of the same, another year of “if we can get in position”…..and find another big bat………..

GIVE ME A BREAK…..Play the season and let it happen…DO NOT TRADE THE FUTURE AWAY AGAIN……………

WestPalmDawg

May 18th, 2009
7:48 pm

I say you go for it next year. Here’s why:

See if we can make a deal in the offseason and welcome Huddy back in 2010. I would try out Hanson in that 5 hole for as long as you can this year to test his big league mentality. Holliday would be MUCH MUCH MUCH cheaper in the offseason if his year continues the way it’s started, plus we wouldn’t lose any big prospects.

If we trade for him, we lose prospects halfway through 09 and lose him at the end of 09.

The next point is that this article is about 2 months too early. We have yet to see what Medlen or Hanson OR Glavine for that matter can do against a big league lineup.

Without getting into a 5 paragrpah thesis, give the youngbloodz a shot this year. Get them ready for next year when we get rid of GA and Glavine and bring on Matt Holliday et al.

Lowe
Hudson
Jurrjens
Vasquez
Hanson

with a big bat in FA and all prospects in tact.

the truth....

May 18th, 2009
7:51 pm

What kind of mindless BS column is this? The entire thing of trading from weakness is the problem. It is time that we sit back and let them bring us five players for one….not us giving up the five from our farm. You know how to do that?….

It isn’t hard….just sit on your hands and play baseball…get the players in the system and develop them…quit the dreaming and let’s put pressure on the brain trust to stash and develp players, not develop and give them away……..

Jay

May 18th, 2009
8:06 pm

Trading the national league leader in strikeouts for a two-month rental of a player who has proven he cant hit outside of Coors Field is a bad idea. Thank God you arent the GM.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
8:08 pm

I don’t know too many clubs knocking down the door to get Jo-Jo Reyes — he’s 0-2 with a 6.58 ERA and has generated 37 baserunners in 26 innings.

Rex

May 18th, 2009
8:13 pm

I think it is a little early to be saying a guy that had Tommy John surgery in August is the key to the season.

Tommy Hanson stands to be a lot bigger key to the 2009 season than Mr. Hudson- as much as I like Hudson. But he needs a full year of recovery to be a solid starter again.

Hanson is going to be the REAL DEAL!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
8:22 pm

It’s never too soon to be early, I always say.

Actually, I’ve never said that.

GA Faithful

May 18th, 2009
8:30 pm

So your suggesting trading vasquez over kk…so we traded all those good (some great) prospects for what to trade for a rental…??? if we would have kept TYLER FLOWERS we might have a cleanup man for the future. lowe, jj, and vasquez are solid starters, the other two spots are up for grabs.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
8:31 pm

I think Vazquez would bring something in trade. I’m not sure Kawakami would.

richbrave

May 18th, 2009
8:35 pm

Right now I’m thinking LOWE, JURJJENS, VASQUEZ, ?GLAVINE?, ?HANSON?, KAWAKAMI, with MORTON as a fill-in, injury back-up, and MEDLEN for spot starts and middle relief. IF GLAVINE and HANSON don’t wash out this year, trade HUDSON’s option $$$$ for two stud middle relief guys. Ship CAMPILLO, BENNETT, and CARLYLE. KEEP REYES in AAA in 2010 to see if he has any redeeming pitching qualities, then spend money on two temps for the outfield.

Herschel Talker

May 18th, 2009
8:37 pm

Mark: I’ll take it one step further. I’m sure Kawakami would not. He is a tomato can.

MJM

May 18th, 2009
8:41 pm

The keys to this season are; 1) Find a center fielder that can hit. 2) Find a right fielder that can hit. 3) Play the second baseman that can hit, Omar Infante.

DawginLex

May 18th, 2009
8:45 pm

If Glavine can’t go or is not effective, I say bring up Hanson and go with what we have. No more Tex trades. If we can stay in the 82-87 win mark, we can get the wild card. with a couple of breaks, could win the division. The former angels are gamers and we now have a bullpen. Pick up 10 1 run games compared to last year and we are right in it.

Don’t trade the farm. Go with what we have.

gene garbage

May 18th, 2009
8:48 pm

we do have a future no.4 man, freddie freeman.. i’m still for trading the golden child…flyball francouer…i think i’m going to throw something the next time i see him fly out, TO THE INFIELD!!!!!!! trade him why you can.

Ted Striker

May 18th, 2009
8:51 pm

Kawakami could be trade bait if his translator hit .300.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
8:51 pm

You know, as someone who actually covered Gene Garber, I laughed when I saw the screen name “gene garbage.” Don’t really know why. But I did.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
8:54 pm

And Ted, now that you mention it, I did see Daichi Takasue — Kawakami’s translator — wearing a glove today.

Beauregard

May 18th, 2009
8:58 pm

Huddy’s bat in the 4-hole would be an improvement over Garret Anderson’s. The sad thing is that I’m only kinda joking.

gene garbage

May 18th, 2009
9:04 pm

hey mark, i loved geno…especially after the whole pete rose thing, but you do have to admit, he did throw garbage up there..and it worked!!! i read recently where he doesn’t even follow baseball now-a-days..i’m a life longer fan, ohhhhh the bad ole days, with mad hungarian, biff pocoroba, and a child hood friend, terry harper..

anyway, whats the chances of trading frenchy this year, doesn’t he only have a one year contract?

Ted Striker

May 18th, 2009
9:08 pm

1) Any guy who was asked out by Cheryl Tiegs (while standing next to her) and also knows the name of Kawakami’s translator is aces in my book.

2) Garber threw garbage but darned if he didn’t make you flat out miss. He’s the only guy to give two opposing batters hernias in only 4 pitches.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
9:09 pm

Francoeur is under contract through 2011. He’s arbitration-eligible but not yet eligible to become a free agent.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
9:11 pm

Oh, yeah. I was asked out by Cheryl Tiegs. Asked to get out of her way.

Ted Striker

May 18th, 2009
9:12 pm

Never stand between a woman and the jumbo shrimp.

alsim

May 18th, 2009
9:16 pm

Braves need A LOT more than Hudson.

.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
9:17 pm

Words to live by.

Know who else was at that Derby party, Ted? Jaclyn Smith. And Howard Cosell.

edward

May 18th, 2009
9:17 pm

What could we get for Schafer and Reyes? I think Frenchy is just being a baby cause they didn’t give him a nice contract like McCanns’. GA will be gone in the winter in a trade and maybe a pitcher also. Lowe,Huddy,Jurrgens,Vazquez,Hanson/Medlen sounds good. And the one who doesn’t make the 5th slot is in the pen.
I don’t think we should trade out the farm (AGAIN) just for a rental. GA,Schafer,and Reyes would be good and make another trade with some of the pen guys that have been stinking it up. The right combination could get us one big name player and a top rookie.

gene garbage

May 18th, 2009
9:22 pm

i would still seek to trade him, while i think you can still get something for him…mark my words, he will be around .230 for the rest of the year. he’s well on his way.

we simply can’t have a cf AND a rf who hit in the low 200’s and expect to challenge for playoff spots, i don’t care how strong your pitching is…another thing, i don’t think that our defense is good enough to keep us in it.

Noah

May 18th, 2009
9:27 pm

I understand the fear of trading away prospects but its what you do when you are in a pennant chase and feel you need one more player. It also gives the team confidence that they can win it and that the front office believes in them. Of course you have to determine that you are close to do so. This year with attendance and revenues down I think you will see a lot ofgood players available and for perhaps less prospects then in a normal year.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
9:29 pm

That’s why I suggested Vazquez as bait. He’s 32. I wouldn’t do another Teixeira-for-the-farm trade, either.

Biff Pocoroba

May 18th, 2009
9:34 pm

As long as Peter Moylan is allowed to pitch in games, this team has no shot at the playoffs. Maybe we can trade him back to Australia for some kangaroos that you can tweet with Mark.

SICK OF IT

May 18th, 2009
9:35 pm

sick and tired of our bullpen. I have almost lost interest in even watching anymore. disgusted.

Ted Striker

May 18th, 2009
9:38 pm

You know what? Both Cheryl and Jacklyn had mentioned some dashing young journalistic upstart to me. From their description, I thought it was some combination of a young Sean Flynn/Ernest Hemingway/Ernie Pyle/Ben Bradlee/Studs Terkel types. Turns out, it was.

D-Nice

May 18th, 2009
9:38 pm

Here is a name that we may seriously want to consider which we did not earlier. Andruw is quietly putting together a very good season in Texas but he is still the 5th OF. Texas is making a push for the playoffs and I am sure they could use a pitcher or a struggling 2B like KJ. Bring AJ back because clearly Shcafer is overmatched at the plate. He had a great spring but now that the real season is on he is showing that he has been rushed to quick. THe plug was pulled to quick on Josh Anderson and other than getting him back from the Tigers then Andruw is the next best option as he brings a big bat and he has always hit in the postseason no matter what you think of his weight which he has curved down by 30lbs this year and losing more and more with the heat in Texas.

BT

May 18th, 2009
9:47 pm

D-Nice if we got Andruw back remember we have TP to help him with hitting! That certainly worked well AJ’s last two years here.

T.Golden

May 18th, 2009
9:47 pm

Get a new short stop without the arrogance – and until we get strong up the middle – 2nd-SS and CF – forget it. Starting pitching is fine – it is the rest of the team.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
9:47 pm

The mighty Braves mustered five hits (all singles) off Jason Marquis and Huston Street on Monday. Their run scored on a DP grounder by Casey Kotchman, who batted three times and made four outs. The team hit into four double plays and didn’t move a runner past first base after the fourth inning. Jeff Francoeur was 0-for-3. Jordan Schafer was 0-for-3. Kelly Johnson was 0-for-4. Derek Lowe was great again and lost.

Noah

May 18th, 2009
9:52 pm

What kind of game summary is that. You mention the #7, and #8 hitters going 0 for as the reason they lost. Well there is a reason they bat #7 and #8. Granted it was a bad game for the Braves.

gene garbage

May 18th, 2009
9:54 pm

dude, when andruw got off the juice his numbers showed it..he’s having american league success right now, which is, they haven’t figured out he cant hit a curve ball.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2009
9:56 pm

What else would you like, Noah? A pitch-by-pitch account of every at-bat? A vocal re-enactment of Casey Kotchman’s run-scoring double-play grounder?

Oh, and here’s a note: This was the smallest paid attendance (15,364) in the history of Turner Field. Like that one any better?

gene garbage

May 18th, 2009
9:57 pm

i do believe mark just summed up our entire year in just three sentences.. thanx mark!!!

i know its early, but the writing is sooo on the wall..

Ted Striker

May 18th, 2009
9:58 pm

Give the dude a break. He’s at the park, he’s eating pizza, he’s on the (company issued) blackberry, he’s being oogled by chicks, he’s filling out his scorecard, he’s sending text messages to botswana, he’s twittering, tweeting, responding to facebook, AP, CNN, S.I. and maybe even going to the mens room in the 8th, between batters. Plus he’s still avoiding Cheryl Tiegs and Jaclyn Smith. Why? Because he’s a happily married guy.

DHD

May 18th, 2009
10:00 pm

Huddy is not going to come back 100% in August. He may be in September, but we will be LONG out of it by then. So, I wouldn’t risk an injury by playing him this year. We need to target 2010 with Heyward and Freeman helping us out offensively.