The Giants' rotation has some obvious things: Madison Bumgarner is the stud of the rotation, Matt Cain is the horse, Tim Lincecum can still throw pretty dang well when he's on. Together, they round out the top three spots in the rotation; it's the obvious. Now, the question lies — where does Tim Hudson fit in this plan?
Hudson, who turns 39 in July, only pitched a little more than half a season in 2013 because of an ankle fracture. The impression that I get is that Hudson will probably be a mid or back-of-the rotation starter. But he might be worth more than that.
Though he only pitched 131.1 innings in 2013, his numbers were not something that should be brushed off easily. With an FIP/xFIP of 3.46/3.56, it's clear he was out performing his 3.97 ERA; not something particularly outstanding, but something to note. His HR/9 was low at 0.7 — something that will probably stay low with the pitcher friendly AT&T Park, so he has that to his advantage. An 8.2 H/9, 2.5 BB/9, and 6.5 K/9 all seem decent enough to fit the fourth spot in the rotation — at least.
Then, you pit him against the 2013 Giants starters and see where he could possibly fit in in the big picture. Sure, he has decent numbers already, but where does he place amongst the usual suspects? Let's take a look at the five starters, plus Hudson, with some league adjusted numbers, some batted ball numbers, win probability, and value.
|Madison Bumgarner (LHP)||79||86||88||3.00||3.41||24.23||4.4|
|Matt Cain (RHP)||114||111||108||4.23||3.91||-3.47||1.3|
|Tim Lincecum (RHP)||124||105||94||4.20||3.75||-10.19||0.2|
|Ryan Vogelsong (RHP)||163||139||120||5.90||4.71||-25.58||-1.8|
|Barry Zito (LHP)||163||139||128||5.66||4.93||-30.75||-2.3|
|Tim Hudson (RHP)||108||93||95||3.65||3.75||-1.14||1.3|
Truth be told, I did not expect Hudson to fare this well against guys like Cain and Lincecum. Granted, there is that fact where Hudson didn't pitch the full season, but neither did Vogelsong. (Vogelsong pitched 103.2 compared to Hudson's 131.1.) Hudson is a huge upgrade over Zito, without a doubt, in fact, even bolstering the rotation.
It's safe to assume that Madison Bumgarner will be the number one starter for the Giants in 2014, with Matt Cain as the second starter. After that, it's up in the air with Lincecum, Hudson, and Vogelsong. With the way the Giants have always had their rotation, the obvious guess would be that Lincecum would be pitching third in the rotation because those are the guys people want to see.
Personally, I would like to see Hudson pitch in that third slot because the Giants wouldn't be losing much from pushing Lincecum back a day. Lincecum hasn't been the Cy Young caliber pitcher of old, but he is still a well above average guy to have pitching for you. However, because of the decline, it might be reasonable to place him as the fourth starter with the possibility of moving up to third starter after the All-Star Break should he prove himself to be a more than capable pitcher.
Vogelsong, in this scenario, would be the fifth starter, no question. While a fan favorite, he is not necessarily the best pitcher in the rotation and with Zito gone, there's no reason to keep him as the fourth starter. Having Hudson and Lincecum as the 3-4 punch in the lineup can bring more of a punch than, say, Hudson-Vogelsong or Lincecum-Vogelsong. It just wouldn't make sense. Throw in the fact that there's no way they can do the righty-lefty-righty-lefty-etc rotation of old with four right-handers in the rotation, so the Giants should pick whoever's the best man for the spot.
The Hudson signing has been an underrated move for the Giants and, should they find the right place for him in the rotation, could prove to bring the pitching back to its old reputation of being frightening.
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Jen Mac Ramos is a contributor for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow her on twitter at @_jenmac.