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Considering Hudson and Jackson
2004-12-13 10:13
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Anyone who thinks he knows how Tim Hudson will perform over the next several seasons ... doesn't know.

Here are the 10 most similar players to Hudson at age 28, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Scores are out of 1000.

Jack McDowell (956)
Mike Mussina (945)
Bob Welch (944)
Dennis Leonard (941)
Doug Drabek(941)
Kevin Millwood (940)
Ron Darling (938)
Bill Hoffer (937)
Bill Lee (934)
Kevin Appier (933)

Here's how they compare as they moved forward in their careers, according to park- and era-adjusted ERA+. An average ERA+ is 100. The age given is the player's age on April 1. (I'm leaving out Hoffer, who retired in 1901, and Millwood, who is only a year older than Hudson.)


Player/Age 29    30    31    32    33    34    35    36    37
McDowell  117    96    93    92    60
Mussina   129   138   125   142   108   129    98
Welch     106   123   104   123   126    94   115    79    62
Leonard   107   121    80   110    --    96
Drabek    124   103   140    84    84    76    62
Darling    84    87   102    81    98    70
Lee       115   74     94    83    84   114   107    82    88
Appier    139    63    95   105   115   111    81    33

Are you overwhelmed? Underwhelmed? Neither? Two of the three closest comparables, Mussina and Welch, were top-notch for five seasons. On the other hand, McDowell quickly faltered. In the middle, Leonard and Drabek offered three more good seasons.

The decline in Hudson's strikeout rate concerns me, but the man does seem to have margin for error. Last year, despite striking out only 103 batters of the 783 he faced, he allowed only eight home runs. If it's a tightrope he's walking, he's got great balance.

It seems that Hudson is probably still a safe bet to be a bargain in 2005 - a star performer earning about $6 million in the final year of his contract. Beyond that, he may be overpriced. Conversely, for the next few years before he gains free agency, rumored Dodger tradee Edwin Jackson will probably be a bargain no matter what he does - but he may not do much in 2005.

I think one path that has gone unexplored is whether renting Hudson for a year and then letting him go is completely unacceptable. If you have faith that Greg Miller, Joel Hanrahan or any of the Dodger pitching prospects offers as much promise as Jackson, then perhaps it's okay to sacrifice one, get the Dodgers through a serious starting pitching crunch in 2005, and then rely on the remaining prospects starting in 2006. However, if you think Jackson is superior to the others, then you should be willing to go through any growing pains with him in 2005.

I like Jackson a lot and find his struggles in 2004 to be largely irrelevant in discussing his future. It's the same story as Adrian Beltre - anything you get from a 21-year-old at the major-league level is pure bonus. But here's my challenge for you: Stop comparing Jackson to Hudson and start comparing him to the other Dodger pitching prospects. Do you think Jackson can do a job that the others can't?

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