If You Think It's Lame, Well, You Miss Out: San Francisco Giants Sign Tim Hudson, He's Not Josh Johnson

Dilip Vishwanat

In spite of what people might say, the fact that the Giants signed Tim Hudson does not mean the Jays should have extended a Qualifying Offer to Josh Johnson.

Reports are in that free agent starter Tim Hudson has signed with the San Francisco Giants for 2 years / $23 M. I've already seen a bunch of folks saying Hudson's situation is pretty comparable to Josh Johnson's. Given a fairly frequent estimate that an additional contract year tends to reduce a contract's average annual value around $2 M (though this doesn't work as well between one- and two-year deals), the contract that Hudson signed would essentially be a two-year qualifying offer.

So, material equivalence ought to dictate that Johnson will get a contract similar to Hudson's. As his agent said that multi-year deals were essentially out of the question, we're looking at something like 1 yr / $13.5 M. Given how split the folks on this site were on their predictions of whether the Jays would extend (68% said yes, 32% said no), it may not come as a surprise that Johnson seems to be on the brink of being offered a deal right in line with what a Qualifying Offer would have been. So should the Jays have made that offer? Well, the topic of whether the Jays should have extended Johnson a Qualifying Offer (1 yr / $14.1) was covered pretty extensively here and I'm not going to rehash the same argument. Instead, I'll rehash a new argument.

Assuming you haven't been Eternal Sunshined, you likely remember Johnson's miserable season (81 IP, 6.20 ERA). However, Johnson's peripherals (9.2 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 45% gb-rate) were largely in line with his career norms (8.3 K/9, 3 BB/9, 47% gb-rate), suggesting a pitcher who was victimized by some very bad luck on balls in play and balls in the air (.356 BABIP, 18.5% HR/fly). Bad luck on balls in play also likely contributed to Johnson's 63% strand-rate and Johnson's season actually looks just fine by xFIP (3.58) and SIERA (3.73). Johnson obviously missed a lot of time to injury and it's possible that those injuries were affecting his pitching before he hit the Disabled List.

So how is Johnson like Hudson?

1) Like Johnson, Hudson is looking to bounce back from a season where he missed a bunch of playing time (Hudson made 21 starts);

2) Like Johnson, Hudson's an historically very good pitcher who underperformed his peripherals in 2013 (3.97 / 3.46 / 3.56 by ERA / FIP / xFIP); and

3) Like Johnson, Hudson was a free agent who was not extended a qualifying offer. Again, you can see why a lot of folks might think these two pitchers are comparable.

However, if you dig even just a little bit deeper, you'll likely find those similarities are generally superficial.

First, it's true that both pitchers are returning from injuries but Hudson's generally been quite healthy aside from last season's broken ankle and a Tommy John surgery in 2008. While that does presume a bit of "Aside from that unpleasantness in the third act, Mrs. Lincoln, how'd you like the play?" sentiment, provided that Hudson heals up as he's expected to and can plant his foot with aplomb, those injuries should be behind him. Johnson's been an injury risk pretty much his whole career, managing 20 starts just four times since he became a regular back in 2006.

Second, Hudson and Johnson are very different pitchers who are likely to follow very different career paths. Hudson's very much in the Derek Lowe mold: he limits free passes (2.2 BB/9 career) and he strikes out his fair share (6.0 K/9 career) but he's really made his living keeping the ball down (58.5% gb-rate since 2002). Like Lowe, Hudson may be able to remain effective through his late-30's. I think of Hudson as a cross between Lowe and Roy Halladay, who, incidentally, may be the subject of another article by another writer. He's been impressively consistent, maintaining an FIP between 3.38 and 3.83 in all but three seasons since 2001 (the exceptions were 2005, 2006, and 2010). Johnson's a power pitcher whose ceiling was much higher than Hudson's but whose best days could very well be behind him. Hudson may be 7 1/2 years Johnson's senior but he's a better bet to pitch a full season. Steamer projects Hudson to pitch 182 innings in 2014 and Johnson to pitch just 144.

Third, San Francisco may have overpaid for Hudson and the Giants have been operating at a higher payroll than the Jays for years. According to Cot's, in 2013, when payroll spiked up 40%, the Jays were at roughly $120 M. The Giants have been operating at that level since 2011 and were at $140 M last season. And, while both teams had dreadful seasons last year, the Giants did win the World Series in 2012 and 2010. What makes sense for the Giants might not make sense for the Jays. Though I do have to admit, while I'm not sure that it'd've been worthwhile to try to beat the Giants' offer to Hudson, the northpaw's knack for getting worm-burners sure might have been a nice fit in the hitter-friendly Dome.

Thanks to garage rock band Grand Champeen's "Miss Out" which inspired today's title.

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