Two pitchers who are getting paid like stars but who can’t be expected for more than journeyman work. Let’s start with Tim Hudson.
These are not good trends. Remember, while he held steady in ERA in 2005, his run context changed dramatically; his ERA+ went from 158 to 133. The increase in his strikeout rate is basically the only positive to take from Hudson’s 2006. His walks were up and he set a career high in home runs allowed, a very disturbing pairing. That being said, his ERA probably “should be” lower, in the low fours; he had a lot of bad luck to go with bad pitching.
The Braves are likely to shop Hudson; the chances of finding a taker who will accept his whole contract without the Braves including something of real value are very low indeed. His salary for 2007 is pretty reasonable, but it rises appreciably in 2008-09. I don’t expect him to go anywhere right now. If he gets off to a decent start and the Braves fall out of contention, he could be dealt in July.
10 percent: Traded this offseason
30 percent: Plays entire 2007 season with team
20 percent: Misses time with minor injuries
20 percent: Misses significant portion of 2007 season with major injury requiring surgery
20 percent: Traded during the season, probably to the Yankees
Tommy John patients have a tendency to struggle with their control during their first season back while often adding velocity. I’m not a believer in the sort of stories I read about Hampton having great stuff in a simulated game, but there’s a good chance that it will be true.
Part of the problem, however, is that when Hampton seemed to be turning the corner in 2005, he did it largely by cutting way down on his walks. If he has to learn to control his pitches again, it could be a long season. One good thing is that Hampton actually could have come back right about now, so he has several months of extra training he can do. He may get the wildness out of his system now and be ready next season.
10 percent: Doesn’t pitch at all or only minimally due to lingering health issues
45 percent: In and out of the rotation, pitching league-average baseball
20 percent: Spends most of the season in the rotation pitching league-average baseball
10 percent: Starts the season well but hurts his arm again
10 percent: Spends most of the season in the rotation pitching well
5 percent: Starts off well and the Braves find a way to deal him in July or August
I should point out that Hampton will be a 10-and-5 man after the season.