It’s not enough for Tim Hudson to oppose the Royals in the World Series, and given their tepid performance Tuesday, he might be right.
Hudson wants to throw a curve that buckles the sabermetric community as well.
Hudson, in the days leading up to the World Series, from the San Jose Mercury News: “Too many people nowadays are getting wrapped up in the sabermetrics and the stats. I’m willing to bet almost every one of those people never stepped in a locker room, put on a jock and took the field, and understands those intangibles that help you win.”
Maybe Hudson is right. He should know something about winning big-league games, given that he’s won 214 of them. And give credit to Hudson for this: he’s made the off-days this postseason more interesting (“But come playoff time, talent can take you a long ways, but what do you have between your legs?” he said about the Nationals before the NLDS).
But it doesn’t take advanced metrics to understand how the Giants won Game 1, and it was more tangible than intangible.
There’s a place where sabermetrics and scouting converge, and it’s talent. Scouts liked Madison Bumgarner, and the Giants made him the 10th pick of the first round in 2007 (David Price went No. 1 to the then-Devil Rays; Mike Moustakas No. 2 to the Royals; Matt Wieters No. 5 to the Orioles; the Cubs and Pirates, who took Josh Vitters No. 3 and Daniel Moskos No. 4, respectively, have some explaining to do.) Sabermetricians like Bumgarner no less for the 3.06 ERA and 116 ERA+ he’s put up in 952.2 innings by age 24.
Who knows Hudson’s motivation, and who can argue with it. He’s 39 years old and had lost his first six playoff series before this fall, so maybe he’s become an expert on what it takes to lose.
But his pre-Series comments, saluting Brian Sabean and the GM’s scouting background, were trying to revive a rivalry that’s dormant, like trying to trash-talk the Celtics-Lakers back to relevance.
“Maybe because he was a scout, it comes from his history of seeing and evaluating players and not only seeing their physical tools, but their mental side,” Hudson said, according to mercury-news.com. “Those are the things that general managers can’t put a stat on — how tough somebody is, how much guts they have, what kind of chemistry they can bring.”
The Red Sox said that’s what Jonny Gomes brought to their locker room, but Gomes was a lot more combustible for them last year than he was for the Athletics last month. That might have something to do with the Series-turning Game 4 home run Gomes hit for the Red Sox, and less to do with the long fly ball he and Sam Fuld misplayed into a triple against the Royals.
Winners get to explain the history, but they’re not entitled to fictionalize it. The Giants weren’t that tough from June-September, when they went 45-53 after winning 43 of their first 64. They settled for the second wild card and are 9-2 since, and who can explain that? Besides Hudson?
The Giants’ starting lineup Tuesday featured eight players drafted in the fifth round or higher, and three first-rounders: Buster Posey (No. 5 in 2008), Joe Panik (No. 29 in 2011) and Bumgarner. Only Gregor Blanco (free agent from Venezuela, replacing Angel Pagan, a fourth-round pick of the Mets, which is why the Giants win and the Mets do not) and playoff hero Travis Ishikawa (a 21st-round pick who’s done little, besides the home run, to disprove that standing) weren’t drafted that high.
The Giants have won two World Series this decade and are a quarter of a way to a third. That might be about chemistry, or physics, or history, but it’s about talent, too. Yes, Sabean has made some astute pickups, especially in the bullpen, but he’s connected with his draft picks, too. Even Ryan Vogelsong, touted for his time in Asia, was once a fifth-round pick; that doesn’t happen with a AA fastball.
Hudson will get his turn, and it might be one that’s well remembered five years after he retires. Hudson is at that Mike Mussina-Curt Schilling-Jack Morris level of Hall of Fame consideration, without the postseason moments of the latter two. He has those 214 wins and a .633 percentage in the regular season, but just one in 11 postseason starts, unless you give him one for his analysis of the Nationals.
Hudson’s case will only be helped by advanced metrics — he has a 3.45 career ERA but 122 ERA+ and 56.9 WAR, and not much time to improve them. He might want to be even more dismissive of the Royals than he is of sabermetrics.
Editor’s note: An earlier version said Hudson would pitch in Game 2. He is the scheduled starter for Game 3 on Friday.