Fire up the doubt machine.
Making his Arizona Diamondbacks debut, Daniel Hudson threw eight innings of one-run ball, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out four.
This is the kind of start I simultaneously wanted to see and hoped wouldn’t happen. It’s fitting, because entering our third day since the trade for Edwin Jackson, I still have way more questions than answers.
Let’s start with one raised by tonight’s start:
No. 1: Was anything different?
In his three starts with the White Sox, the common thread between the two bad ones was a lack of the slider. So it makes perfect sense that, in the best start of his career, Hudson threw four sliders out of 110 pitches.
Yup, if Brooks is correct, Hudson was the same guy in terms of repertoire. He just happened to throw more strikes — 70 out of 110, to be exact. Maybe he learned from his start against Oakland and just trusted that bad hitters will get themselves out. Or maybe he was relieved by the trade, and figured that getting hit around the park in one game wouldn’t seal any kind of fate.
But from watching his highlight reel, he did show one new wrinkle — changing eye level. During his time with the Sox, Hudson had a tendency to work exclusively in the lower half of the zone and below. Against the Mets on Sunday, three of his four strikeouts had come on fastballs at the eyes, and looking at his pitch plots, he ventured higher in the zone far more often.
Then again, two of those three high strikeout victims were the pitcher (Jon Niese) and Alex Cora, who hits as well as Joey would nowadays. The other was David Wright
There’s a lot of noise, and one start isn’t going to make these answers. I’m not inclined to believe that it’s that simple, and I picked up on something highly paid professionals like Don Cooper and A.J. Pierzynski didn’t, but there seems to be some sense to it. I’m guessing the combination of less tension and a bad lineup helped him more.
The other questions I had:
No. 2: How good is Hudson?
After the trade, Joe Cowley tweeted something that caught me off-guard:
By the way, privately Sox felt that Hudson was a future No. 5 starter/middle reliever at best. Sorry Phillip, do some work.
It didn’t surprise me that the Sox wouldn’t talk up Hudson after trading him for a guy whose numbers don’t suggest he’s anything more than a fifth starter himself, but the notion of middle relief as a possible ceiling goes against a lot of what I would consider to be conventional wisdom.
Hudson has two good pitches and one that comes and goes. That seems like a pretty good place to be for a guy his age. If he can ever iron out his slider, that’s middle of the rotation, not middle relief.
There’s one other way to look at it. Hudson could have a No. 3 starter stuff, but his unorthodox delivery might make him prone to injuries that prevent him from ever reaching that status, a la Brandon McCarthy. If that’s the case, Chris Sale would seem to be more of the same.
No. 3: Was Hudson a victim of his own success?
This is only Hudson’s second full pro season.
That deserves a standalone sentence. Hell, I’ll say it again: This is only Hudson’s second full pro season.
Hudson was a fifth-round pick who started in rookie ball. They had no intention to fast-track him. If Hudson were your garden-variety “good” prospect, he’d be trying to establish himself at Birmingham right now.
Hudson’s rapid ascension to the majors makes him devoid of comparable pitchers in the White Sox system, but here is a smattering of other starters and where they spent the most of their second pro season, if not all of it:
- Polished collegiate types:
- Lance Broadway (Charlotte), Kyle McCulloch (Birmingham), Tyler Lumsden (Birmingham), Justin Cassel (Birmingham), Jack Egbert (Winston-Salem)
- Raw collegiate types:
- Clayton Richard (Winston-Salem), Aaron Poreda (Birmingham/Charlotte/Portland/Chicago), Nathan Jones (Winston-Salem), Brian Omogrosso (Birmingham), Adam Russell (Birmingham), Sean Tracey (Birmingham)
Poreda’s the only exception, and his handedness makes him a bad comparison. The LOOGY route isn’t one available to Hudson.
Nobody was anywhere close to where Hudson found himself — already making his second effort at starting in the big leagues, already beginning to disappoint those around the White Sox despite the fact that, halfway through his second full pro season, he already had kicked Triple-A’s ass twice and had two big-league wins under his belt. These should be reasons for irrational exuberance, not disenchantment, but it felt to me like ennui was setting in. Correct me if you didn’t pick up the same vibes.
No. 4: Will the same thing happen to Chris Sale?
If Hudson became old hat in the middle of his second full season, we might start calling the new guy “Chris Stale” at this point in 2011. Hudson was on a fast track; Sale is on a launch pad, with a strong possibility of making the 25-man roster two months after being drafted.
Whenever he does make the club, the clock will start ticking on his Sox career. That could complicate matters when he has to take two steps back to resume his career as a starter in Birmingham or thereabouts.
Let’s say Sale stumbles while stretching back out to six innings every five nights, which is seems like something we should prepare for considering he never faced more than three batters at a time in Winston-Salem. If Hudson’s advanced sophomore stumbles raised eyebrows, any Sale setback could result in bucketfuls of hand-wringing.
(Plus, if Hudson’s arm slots caused concern about his durability, then Sale would have similar issues. Not to mention that his McCarthyesque frame makes you check the skies for vultures. But that’s a different discussion.)
To wrap up this discussion…
No. 5: Will the Sox ever believe in their own pitching prospects?
I’m a big Clayton Richard fan, and I’m fascinated by his career, as anybody who read White Sox Outsider 2010 can attest. I thought it was a little bit nutty that they’d trade him after two sterling starts for an injured pitcher, but I could see the justifications. Petco Park helps him a lot, as does the lack of a designated hitter. Ultimately, even though he’s pitching well, I don’t think it’s worth losing sleep over. The trade hasn’t worked out, but that’s what happens when you swing big.
But still, the lack of faith in a young pitcher who was earning his shot was a little reminiscent of McCarthy’s identity crisis in 2006. And now that legacy lives on in Hudson. He was the ideal sixth starter, and it should’ve been an ideal situation to work him into the big-league culture. He would’ve been surrounded by two veterans to learn from, and two successful young pitchers who aren’t far removed from the minors. The Sox would’ve had some off days to skip Hudson if things didn’t progress swimmingly.
Unfortunately, the slight lead in the AL Central spoils that. In a pennant race, Ozzie Guillen didn’t feel comfortable giving a rookie the ball every fifth day, even though a shaky fifth starter shouldn’t throw an entire team off. It seems like Hudson is paying for the sins of the roster construction.
The last time the Sox went with a rookie fifth starter was 2007, when John Danks took the ball from the start and Gavin Floyd joined him later. That was a lost season, and so Guillen and Williams had no choice but to see what the kids could do. The problem is that when Williams expects to contend every year with an increasingly ramshackle roster, the margins for error become slimmer, and so does the opportunity for a young starter to establish himself.
That’s going to come to a head sooner or later, and here’s hoping Hudson isn’t the tipping point.
For more on Hudson and the trade deadline, listen to the latest Oral Sox podcast. Adam and Jeff invited me, Larry from South Side Sox and J.J. from White Sox Examiner for some healthy discussion on their Phone Sox segment.
I’ll take have a bigger link dump later in the day.
Minor league roundup:
- Charlotte 7, Rochester 6
- Mark Teahen drew two walks and doubled in four PAs.
- Alejandro De Aza went 3-for-5 with an RBI and his 16th steal.
- Brent Morel wore the collar.
- Chattanooga 6, Birmingham 2
- Justin Greene went 3-for-4 with a double.
- Eduardo Escobar singled and struck out over four PAs.
- Christian Marrero was 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout.
- Hickory 6, Kannapolis 5
- Kyle Colligan hit a solo shot for his only hit over four ABs, striking out once.
- Tyler Saladino was 0-for-4; Brady Shoemaker 1-for-4 with a K.
- Bristol 7, Burlington 3
- Jacob Petricka struck out five over five shutout innings, allowing just two hits.
- Rangel Ravelo went 0-for-3 with a walk; Daniel Black went 1-for-4.
- Screamin’ Kevin Moran allowed a run on two hits and a walk in his inning of work, striking out one.
- Great Falls 4, Missoula 3 (Game 1, 7 innings)
- Steven Upchurch was OK: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB 4 K.
- Ross Wilson and Andy Wilkins were both 0-for-4.
- Great Falls 4, Missoula 3 (Game 2, 7 innings)
- Wilkins singled and walked twice over four PAs.
- Wilson went 1-for-3 with a walk.