Tim Hudson's injury was ugly, but Braves will survive

Mike Stobe

Leaving aside B.J. Upton's statistics, this has been a pretty good season for the Atlanta Braves. They've been generally healthy, they've gotten some surprisingly good numbers from various role players, and they've opened up a big lead in the National League East.

Wednesday night, things got ugly:

NEW YORK -- What had the makings to be a memorable victory at Citi Field on Wednesday night instead turned into a game that will best be remembered as one in which a masterful Tim Hudson was carted off the field with a fractured right ankle.

By the time the Braves completed their 8-2 win over the Mets, there was little reason to celebrate the home runs Evan Gattis, Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons hit off Jeremy Hefner. There was simply concern for Hudson, who was forced to exit after Eric Young Jr. stepped on Hudson's right ankle in the eighth inning.

Hudson will have surgery in Atlanta when the swelling subsides.

After Young's sharp grounder bounced off first baseman Freddie Freeman's chest, Hudson raced to the first-base bag in time to get the feed from Freeman and retire Young. But as Young ran through the bag, he landed on Hudson's right ankle.

Hudson fell face first to the ground in pain and remained there until medical personnel arrived and carted him to the clubhouse.

There's video up there in the link, if you're into that sort of thing. I've seen enough gruesome ankle injuries for one lifetime, so I'm going to pass this time.

This was Hudson's last appearance of the season, and at least he's going out on top: 7 innings, two runs, nine strikeouts. And he earned the victory, pushing his record this season to 8-7. We might guess that he'll pitch again, but then again you never know. Hudson's a free agent after this season, and it won't be shocking if Hudson just doesn't want to go through the presumably arduous rehab process, merely for a shot at pitching at some point next summer, just before or after he turns 38.

How good has Hudson been? I think he's often overlooked when people talk about this era's greatest pitchers. Consider, though: In his career, Hudson's won 205 games, and lost 111. Here are the top 10 winning percentages in major-league history among pitchers with at least 275 career decisions:

Rk Player W-L% Dec W L
1 Whitey Ford .690 342 236 106
2 Pedro Martinez .687 319 219 100
3 Lefty Grove .680 441 300 141
4 Christy Mathewson .668 558 373 185
5 Roy Halladay .659 305 201 104
6 Roger Clemens .658 538 354 184
7 Lefty Gomez .649 291 189 102
8 Tim Hudson .648 315 204 111
9 Mordecai Brown .648 369 239 130
10 Randy Johnson .646 469 303 166
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/24/2013.

Friends, that's impressive company. Six Hall of Famers, plus Roy Halladay, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemens? In another, just slightly different world, that would eventually be nine Hall of Famers. Might Hudson make it a sweep, though?

As things stand now, he's on the outside looking in. Hall of Fame voters pay some attention to winning percentage, I'm sure. Not a lot, though. They like career wins and big seasons, mostly. And Hudson's well down the list in career wins, with just one 20-win season and zero Cy Young Awards (with just three top-5 finishes). Consider how long it took Bert Blyleven to get elected, and you have some idea of what Hudson's facing. At the moment, he would probably have to get in line behind Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, and Roy Halladay. With CC Sabathia coming up fast.

Which is fair. Hudson's been really good for a long time, but he's benefited from good teammates and good luck over the years, at least until Wednesday night. He had an outside shot at the Hall of Fame before Wednesday night, but he probably needed another two or three good years. And now those years are going to be harder to find.

For a lot of contending clubs, losing a pitcher like Tim Hudson at this point in the season could be devastating. In their case, though, probably not so much. The Braves' top five starters have started 100 of their 101 games; the only exception was a twin-bill opener, started by rookie Alex Wood. And among those five starters, Hudson's 3.97 ERA actually ranks fourth; only Paul Maholm (4.41) has been worse.

As it happens, Maholm just hit the Disabled List with a wrist injury, and Wood's taking his place for the moment. Which means Wood can't step in for Hudson ... but Maholm's expected to return in early August and Brandon Beachy has completed his rehab assignment in the minors -- though not without any hitches -- and figures to be available in the majors soon, and perhaps now.

Ultimately, even without Hudson the Braves should have six starters for five slots. Granted, at least three of those starters probably won't be as good as Hudson would have been ... but then again they probably don't need to be. Because of the National League East, which features exactly one team (the Braves, of course) with a positive run differential (+58). This is just an awful division, and even if you assume the Nationals are going to finish in a rush, considering they now trail the Braves by nine full games it's highly unlikely to matter.

The Braves might well miss Hudson in October. But the good news is they can spend the next couple of months looking for the best possible No. 4 starter. Yes, they'll probably miss Tim Hudson. But this one hurts him a lot more than it hurts the Braves.

For much more about Hudson's injury and the Braves' future, please visit SB Nation's Talking Chop.

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