Giants manger Bruce Bochy made an interesting observation prior to Sunday’s game about starting pitcher Tim Hudson, who intends to retire this fall after 17 major-league seasons.
"You look at his won-loss record, his percentage - that’s Hall of Fame stuff," Bochy said.
Hudson, 40, is the majors’ active wins leader with a career record of 222-132. His career .627 winning percentage makes him one of the most reliable starting pitchers of his era. But is it "Hall of Fame stuff"? We explored, and it turns out that Bochy wasn’t talking in hyperbole.
According to all-time leaderboards on baseball-reference.com, only 14 pitchers in major-league history have more wins AND a better winning percentage than Hudson, who got win No. 222 on Sunday with six scoreless innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Of those 14 pitchers, 12 are in the Hall of Fame. They are:
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Al Spalding (252 wins, .795 winning percentage)*
Whitey Ford (236, .690)
Lefty Grove (300, .680)
Christy Mathewson (373, .665)
John Clarkson (328, .6482)
Mordecai Brown (239, .6477)
Randy Johnson (303, .646)
Pete Alexander (373, .642)
Jim Palmer (268, .638)
Kid Nichols (361, .6344)
Joe McGinnity (246, .6340)
Juan Marichal (243, .631)
* (Spalding, who after a short playing career in the 1870s went on to a fairly successful career in sporting goods, was elected to the Hall of Fame as an executive).
The other two pitchers ahead of Hudson in both categories are Roger Clemens (354, .658) and Mike Mussina (270, .638). Clemens just had his third year appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot and earned 37.5 percent of the vote. Mussina is coming off his second year, in which he appeared on 24.6 percent of ballots.
In other words, with the jury still out on two legitimate candidates, every pitcher with a combination of wins and winning percentage that is comparable or better than Hudson’s has been deemed worthy of the Hall of Fame. Five pitchers who are still active have a better winning percentage than Hudson, but fewer wins -- Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Adam Wainwright, Jered Weaver and Max Scherzer.
There are, of course, plenty of factors taken into Hall of Fame consideration besides wins - and the win itself has been devalued in recent years, with new metrics emerging that can better represent a pitcher’s performance in a given game or season.
But there’s arguably something to be said about wins -- and winning percentage -- when looked at over a long period of time, like a career. Hudson has recorded double-digit wins 13 times and didn’t have his first losing season in the majors until last year, when he was 39. That implies a certain amount of durability, consistency and an ability to adjust -- and readjust -- to hitters, to have regular success for the better part of two decades.
Hudson, who is now tied for 73rd all-time in career wins with Jerry Koosman, was asked after Sunday’s game what the win statistic represents to him.
"I mean I think it says you’re going out there and giving your team a chance to win, and competing every pitch, every inning, every outing," Hudson said. "Wins and losses for pitchers is definitely something that a lot of times is out of our hands. But it’s nice to go out there and notch one, and keep adding them up, see where it all comes in at."
For most of 17 seasons, Hudson has done that more often than not. He is now down to his final chances. Hudson is on turn to next start Saturday in Oakland -- where he broke into the majors with the A’s -- and said he believes he’ll have one more start in San Francisco during the Giants’ final homestand. He would be on turn to start the series finale against the Dodgers on Oct. 1, though Bochy said the Giants are still planning out their rotation for the final week.
Amid those more immediate concerns, Hudson didn’t have much of a reaction Sunday when told of the company he keeps due to one aspect of his career resume.
"It’s hard to put my head around something like that at this point," Hudson said. "I’ve just gone out there and tried to pitch and win ballgames, and do the best job that I can every time out.
"When this is all over with, if there is an argument for something like that, then it’ll definitely be an honor, no question about it."
* The details of Hudson’s outing Sunday can be found in the game story. Included is his and rookie Trevor Brown’s reaction to their first time working together. For Hudson, it was win No. 222 in the majors. For Brown, making his second major-league start, it was the first win he has been a part of, and he said he and Hudson "really clicked."
* Buster Posey had the biggest swing of the day, a three run homer that put the Giants up 4-0 in the sixth inning. It was Posey’s 19th of the season, tied with Brandon Crawford for the team lead. Is Posey angling to win that race?
"I don’t want us to stay tied at this number," he said. "I’d be fine with (being) tied at a little higher number.
"I can’t say I want him to stay there, let’s put it that way."
* Sunday’s game featured some notable action on the basepaths. Matt Duffy stole second in the eighth inning and is now perfect on nine attempts this season. That certainly is not an overwhelming number, but Duffy is one of only three players in the majors this season to steal as many as nine bases without being caught.
"He runs the bases better than anybody on the club, to be honest," Bochy said.
Brown, meanwhile, is still searching for his first big-league hit, but stole his first base in the majors in the third inning after reaching on a walk. It came after the infielder-turned-catcher had one steal all season at Triple-A Sacramento and none in the minors last year.
"I was just as surprised as everyone else was," Brown said. "I’m not necessarily a base-stealer. But just got a good jump; luckily the throw wasn’t right on the bag, which kinda helped me out a little bit."
Brown also threw out a runner, Jake Lamb, trying to steal second base on a pitchout in the fifth inning. Bochy said the dugout called that maneuver as well, figuring Arizona might try a hit-and-run given their hitters had already grounded into two double plays against Hudson.
* The Giants snapped a two-game losing streak and a 35-inning scoreless streak against the Diamondbacks at home, but still couldn’t escape the day without injury. Juan Perez was in obvious pain after swinging at strike three in a pinch-hit at-bat in the seventh. The preliminary word after the game was Perez injured his oblique. The Giants are already missing Hunter Pence to an oblique injury, while Crawford has missed time with oblique tightness.
* The Giants are off Monday before starting their final road trip of the season with three games in San Diego. The pitching probables:
Tuesday: RHP Chris Heston (11-10, 3.61) vs. RHP Tyson Ross (10-10, 3.18)
Wednesday: RHP Jake Peavy (7-6, 4.08) vs. RHP Andrew Cashner (6-15, 4.25)
Thursday: LHP Madison Bumgarner (18-8, 2.84) vs. RHP Ian Kennedy (8-15, 4.29)