Hudson may be overshadowed, but he's elite
Braves righty, who just notched win No. 200, is understated and underrated
You know the old saying that goes, "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" Well, here's the baseball version, which goes, "If you spend 15 years pitching as well as anybody in the Major Leagues and never win a Cy Young Award, do you still rank among the elite of your peers?"
Exhibit A: Tim Hudson, the right-handed ace of the Atlanta Braves. He ranks among the elite of his peers -- at least.
At best, Hudson surpasses them all.
That's not just me talking. Listen to future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine, the former left-handed ace of the Braves. He began his Hudson analysis by acknowledging that Hudson is third in career wins (200) among active pitchers, behind Andy Pettitte (248) and Roy Halladay (201).
"If you look at the body of work, I think that's probably a fair ranking right now," Glavine said. "But if you said to me, 'Hey, I need to win a playoff game today, which of these three would you pitch?' I'd take Huddy right now. I think he's the most effective out of all of them at this particular time.
"I think Andy Pettitte's career has been a little bit longer and a little bit more consistent, but Huddy will get there in due time. Halladay has had some of the most dominant years of the three of them. But again, right now, Huddy's pitching as well as any of them."
Actually, Hudson is pitching better.
While Halladay is fading as a dominant thrower at 2-3 with a 6.75 ERA, Pettitte is 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA and Hudson is 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA. In addition, Hudson is fresh off a rarity on the mound and at the plate. Not only did he notch the 200th win of his career on Tuesday night at Turner Field against the Nationals, he slammed a home run.
The last pitcher to manage that double feat was Bob Lemon for the Cleveland Indians in 1956.
"It was a fun game," Hudson told reporters after he allowed the Nationals just three hits in seven innings along the way to an 8-1 victory. "Obviously it's kind of surreal. Nobody expects to go out there and hit a home run. It was a fun night all the way around.
"I felt like I threw the ball well. I felt like I was in command throughout the seven innings. And you know what, man? If you swing hard, sometimes you hit it. That was the case tonight."
Such postgame comments were pure Hudson. No frills, to the point, always pleasant. As was the case during his six years with the Athletics before he came to the Braves after the 2004 season, the 37-year-old Alabama native isn't into self-promotion. That has contributed to his place in the background -- you know, despite his accomplishments.
Those accomplishments are huge for Hudson, and they go beyond his three All-Star Game trips and 2010 National League Comeback Player of the Year Award, when he went 17-9 with a 2.83 ERA after Tommy John surgery.
If you include Hudson's three years in the Minor Leagues, he has yet to have a losing season after 17 years and counting as a pitcher in professional baseball. He has won 15 or more games eight times. During his career, he has gone seven innings or more in 55 percent of his starts, which means he is as durable as they come.
And about Hudson's 200 wins: He would have even more, but courtesy of his Tommy John surgery, he missed half of the 2008 season and most of the '09 season.
Still, if you asked baseball fans on the spur of the moment to name the top pitchers in the game, they eventually would mention Hudson -- well, eventually. Something keeps this splendid starter in the background, even beyond his mostly soft-spoken ways.
"I think you have to see Huddy pitch over a period time to really appreciate him," Glavine said. "In some respects, you can almost look at him and his style of pitching as that of a finesse left-hander, so to speak. By that I mean, you're not going to go to the ballpark and be wooed by how hard he throws or his stuff. But if you go to the ballpark and watch him pitch repeatedly, most of the time you're going to walk away and he will have either won the game or he will have given his team a chance to win the game."
Sounds like Glavine, owner of 305 career wins. Then there is Greg Maddux with 355 wins. John Smoltz has "just" 213 wins, but he also has 154 saves to become the only pitcher in Major League history with more than 200 wins and 150 saves.
Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz composed the Braves' Big Three starters during much of the 1990s. They all won the NL Cy Young Award, and they all rank as another reason Hudson doesn't receive the recognition that normally would come with such a resume.
The man is swallowed by the Big Three's shadow.
"It's hard to think that isn't the case a little bit," Glavine said. "You still hear people around town talk about those old days and about that trio -- and rightfully so. It was a special time and a special group, and in many respects, that's when people started watching the Braves. So it's natural for people to compare.
"Huddy still is pretty good in his own right. He has a lot of similar qualities to what the three of us had. He takes the ball when it's his turn and he battles and he tries to figure things out on a given night if things aren't quite right.
"He would have fit in extremely well in any of our rotations."
Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz and Hudson? I'm thinking the Braves back then could have lived with that.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.