Friday, September 17, 2010

Hudson's September Disappearance

In 12 games this month, Orlando Hudson is hitting .216/.225/.216. He's struck out 12 times and walked only once. He's grounded into three double plays and collected zero extra-base hits.

Normally I wouldn't put much thought into a short slump of this nature, especially since Hudson's month of August was quite good. Yet, I can't help but be reminded of the way his '09 campaign ended.

The second baseman had been a key contributor to the Dodgers' outstanding season. He was an All-Star, in fact. Yet, as the season winded down and Los Angeles nursed its lead in the NL West, Hudson increasingly started to find himself on the bench in favor of Ronnie Belliard. Hudson, who claimed to be perfectly healthy, was held out of the lineup several times in the final weeks of the season and then didn't start a single time in the playoffs. His team played eight postseason games and Hudson made a total of four plate appearances, all as a pinch-hitter.

The situation mystified everyone, including Dodgers fans. Joe Torre is one of the game's great managers, a man who has masterfully guided many teams through the playoffs and who has a solid reputation as a player's manager. He said little about the decision to bench Hudson, but surely one would think there was more to it than the fact that Belliard was riding a hot streak.

It would seem that Torre is not the only one with a rather low opinion of Hudson. It's taken the second baseman until February to get signed in both of the past two offseasons, and he was only able to come away with relatively inexpensive one-year deals while similarly productive counterparts signed more lucrative contracts.

There's a reason that Hudson fell in the Twins' lap late in this past offseason. Every other team had passed on him, despite the fact that he was an All-Star and Gold Glover last year.

For much of this season, it's been hard for me to understand why the league is so sour on Hudson, but the past few weeks have opened my eyes a bit. I don't really hold the low batting average against him, but it's evident from his horrendous K/BB ratio that Hudson's plate approach is in shambles. He looks lost in the batter's box and on Thursday night he made a foolish base running error that was emblematic of his late-season struggles

What's more -- and I'm not the only one to have pointed this out -- is Hudson's demeanor in games. He hardly seems bothered by his failures. After striking out flailing at a low breaking pitch, Hudson grins as he walks back to the dugout. He showboats in the field, sometimes to a fault. Sometimes he seems more friendly with members of the other team than his own teammates. For a competitive guy like Torre, I think that's a turnoff.

And judging by the difficulty Hudson has had finding a job over the past couple offseasons, I wonder whether those kinds of things have contributed to a bad reputation. It's certainly not his performance that's been keeping him unemployed until February each year.

To be clear, Hudson was still a great addition and his production over the course of the season is a big part of the reason that the Twins are where they are. And they're playing well enough right now as a team that his late-season disappearance doesn't matter all that much.

I just hope he wakes up in time for the playoffs.


Anonymous said...

O-dawg is also a huge camera hog. I'm not sure if this annoys other players or not. But any time there is a big moment, you'll find O-dawg sitting at the end of the dugout nearest to the camera. He's always in the big shots making some dramatic facial expressions.

I think he's just a weird dude and teams get annoyed of him. But the slump has been pretty short and I don't know that we can hardly hit the panic button yet. Since his replacement is Casilla I doubt he'll be benched any time soon.

Anonymous said...

Good point - as usual Nick. I noticed last night that his BA has dipped into the low 270's and I believe that if the Twins are going to advance deep into the playoffs they are absolutely going to need him and Span to start hitting and getting on base the way they were earlier in the season - especially without Morneau.

TBo45 said...

I think a lot of his problems come with him not being able to stay healthy, whether he will admit it or not he gets banged up pretty easily, if I were to give anyone a lot of rest the next few weeks before the playoffs it would easily be Hudson

Eliot said...

Even with the injuries to him and Hardy, and their slumps at various points of the year, I think they are still gigantic upgrades over what the Twins had last year in the middle infield. I certainly wouldn't mind both being back next year, there are far worse things than a solid defensive middle infield with a bit of pop.

Marshall Garvey said...

Very well-said like always, Nick. I tend to give Hudson a free pass for his antics and over-the-top expressions. I get a kick out of that, although I can see why there might be an aversion to him.

As far as the benching mystery from last year, well, again you got it spot-on. Torre is a very no-nonsense manager and Hudson's attitude had to clash with that. Still a total loss for the Dodgers to let him go.

+1 to Anonymous's comment about him and Span turning it up. It's frustrating to see them slump and today was an example for Hudson. His double was nice but other than that he was underwhelming. He will play a huge part in the playoffs if he can turn it up.

That being said, I agree he's a clear upgrade and the Twins have only benefited from having him as well as Hardy. Hope both are back on the roster next year.

Dave said...

Torre is a no-nonsense manager if you consider it nonsense to start your best players all of the time. Remember his absurd platoon situation with Kemp and Pierre? It reminds me of the conversation between Burns and Strawberry in the Simpsons softball episode...

(Pierre) Some of these players sure have bad attitudes skip

(Torre) They sure do Pierre!

(Pierre) No hustle either...

** Looks at Kemp on the bench **

((this could also be used for any time Gardy puts Punto in the lineup))

Brady said...

It's pretty hard to be mad at Hudson. Though his offense has been lacking very recently, it's bound to come back.

Besides UZR has him as the second best defensive second baseman in MLB. Right behind Utley.

a said...

this post is overly sour. hudson is an automatic secondbasemen on a team where 4 starters have 50%+ ground ball rate. sure, he is a little nuts (this summer i watched him glide into third base, then playfully punch umpire jim joyce in the chest while the ball was still live), but he is a cornerstone of the twins formula and a must-sign for next season.

Buddy G said...

On top of what you wrote I would say there are also some suspect reasons why he is considered a top defensive 2B. He plays deeper than any 2B I can recall, he's generally in the RF grass actually. This allows him to get to balls that no other 2B can get to (which looks fantastic on highlight reels) but generally those hits end up being infield singles anyway when he does not throw or the throw is late (because he's basically playing a shallow RF!). I've seen a dozen plays this year where they call a hit on a play he should have been charged an error on because after all - "Look where he caught that ball - that's a single against any 2B but Hudson!". It's like he is playing deeper to look good rather than to help the team by getting more outs at 2B.

Also, about the being more friendly with opposing players than his own team mates (seriously) : I bet many of the Twins players that were happy about the signing initially are less happy playing with Hudson than against him.

Anyway, I agree with your Hudson doubts, and won't miss him when he is gone next year.