Posted by: Larry Smith Jr. | February 6, 2010

The O-Dog Heads To Hennepin County

A couple of days ago the Twins made what probably was the biggest move of their off-season with regard to defending their Central Division title when they signed Second Baseman Orlando Hudson.   It is difficult to find words that would do justice to how dramatic of an upgrade Bill Smith & co. managed in bringing Hudson aboard to become their new starting second baseman.   The skinny on Hudson is as follows:

Year PA BA OBP SLG wRC+ UZR/150 Rtot/yr.
2009 631 .283 .357 .417 112 -3.7 3.3
2008 455 .305 .367 .450 114 -7.6 -8.6
2007 601 .294 .376 .441 114 0.5 -1.9
Car. 4117 .282 .348 .431 104 2.6 2.8

 

Hudson missed time in 2008 with various hamstring issues and a contusion on his ankle after being hit by a pitch, but over the last three years he has been very consistently above average at the plate, ranging from 12-14% better than the average hitter on the balance.   The apparent dip in his numbers from 2008 to 2009 can likely be explained by his leaving a more hitter friendly environment in Arizona for Chavez Ravine, but once that is accounted for his production was nearly equal at the plate in 2009 to the previous two seasons.

Defensively there is significant disagreement between UZR and total zone as to his performance last season, with UZR saying that he was below average and Total Zone saying that he was above average.   Both systems agree that he was better than 2008 though, and both agree that he has been slightly above average overall in his career.   Most importantly, both systems agree that he is a dramatic improvement over the Twins primary second baseman in 2009, Alexi Casilla.

Last season the Twins got a combined 209/302/267 (OPS+ 54!) out of the position, with Casilla specifically going 202/280/259 in eighty games.  This was by far the Twins weakest position offensively, being roughly 30% worse than what they were getting at Third Base.  Worse yet, Casilla was absolutely atrocious on defense last year.   Essentially, the Twins were getting nothing at Second Base.    They now have replaced that “nothing” with Hudson, who seems likely to be above average at the plate and at least adequate defensively.  Even if below average, it seems likely that he’ll still give Minnesota a vast upgrade from Casilla.   Except for 2008 Hudson has logged at least 135 games in every season since 2003, and as noted earlier much of his missed time in 2008 came from a recurring hamstring problem that did not turn up at all in 2009, so he seems to be a good bet to remain healthy this season at age 32.

There is really no downside to this deal for the Twins, who have silently made a number of nice moves in the off-season, adding Hudson to Jim Thome and J.J. Hardy.   Hudson is a switch hitter who is generally better from the left side, continuing Minnesota’s trend of leaving themselves vulnerable to good left-handed pitching.   However, Hudson against righties is still an improvement over what Casilla had to offer and therefore the move is a complete victory for the Twins.

Hudson’s deal is only for the 2010 season and will pay him $5m, with a clause stating that the Twins cannot offer him arbitration if he earns type A status.   This move gives the Twins a stop gap for 2010 and allows Hudson a chance to reestablish his value and hit the free agent market again next year to attempt to acquire a better deal if he does well.  A win for both player and team, this move keeps Minnesota ahead of the pack (at least on paper) in the American League Central.

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