When Tim Hudson makes his first big-league start of 2009 on Monday, there’ll be 32 games remaining in the regular season. If we count by fives, he could get seven starts. It’s late, but he could still tip the balance in the wild card scramble.
Hudson is a big-time pitcher. Let’s not forget that. Adding him to the Braves’ rotation — if we assume the Hudson of August/September is indeed the Hudson of old — could have the same impact Cliff Lee made on the Phillies’ rotation when he joined it. Except for this part:
The Phils’ rotation contained massive holes; the Braves’ rotation has been good all season.
Lee has given the Phillies five quality starts in five appearances. Kenshin Kawakami, whose place in the rotation Hudson is apparently taking, provided 12 quality starts in 24 appearances this season, which isn’t bad for the No. 5 man in a rotation. (Javier Vazquez has had 16 quality starts in 25 tries, by way of comparison.)
Kawakami hasn’t been Koufax, but he’s been pretty good. His ERA (4.08) is better than Derek Lowe’s (4.48). His record isn’t pretty — he’s 5-10 — but the Braves won eight of the final 15 games he started. He gave them a chance most nights. He did his job.
At his best, Hudson would be an upgrade. But it’s not going to be easy for a pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery to do a lot better than Kawakami has done. Maybe Hudson will go 6-1 — granted, that’s a giddy best-case scenario — where Kawakami would have gone 3-4. That’s a three-game bump. That could mean nothing at all. Or it could mean a postseason berth.
The Braves trail Colorado, the wild card leader, by 4 1/2 games. This could get very, very tight.