This season didn’t go like most seasons. The Cardinals were terrible. I stopped writing here very much, with nothing after the blog anniversary. However, some things must go on and that includes the Exit Interview series! Now in its 12th year, it’s our look back at each player that made an appearance in a game for the St. Louis Cardinals. We’re approaching it a little different this season, a little more literary and a little less statistical, but hopefully you enjoy it just the same. As always, I am grateful that cardinalsgifs has agreed to use his talent for the header image!
Player: Dakota Hudson
Stats: 6-3, 18 G, 81.1 IP, 88 H, 9 HR, 34 BB, 45 K, 4.98 ERA, 5.06 FIP, 1.500 WHIP, 0.5 bWAR
Statcast: 6.8% barrel, 30.9% sweet spot, 115.2 max exit velocity, .350 wOBA, .371 xwOBA, 12.7% K, 9.6% BB
The case for Alec Burleson is that his skills show up in some of the more advanced metrics and they haven’t yet translated into more traditional production. Until a late swoon, Dakota Hudson was almost exactly the opposite.
It was pretty telling that, even with all the issues the Cardinals had with pitching this season, Hudson didn’t make an appearance until July 1. His first couple of starts looked fine from the casual view, though no matter what John Denton said, he was not “rediscovering [his] path to dominance” because 1) he’d never been dominant and 2) he wasn’t doing anything really different. But in his first six outings, only one of which was a start, it’s true that he had a 2.40 ERA. His FIP was 3.99, though, which told a clearer story.
Did you know that, when the season ended, Hudson was second on the team in wins? Granted it was just six and it was in part because Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty were no longer around, but it is still enough for some casual fans to think that he did a good job, especially since his ERA on September 1 was 4.02. You saw the Denton article above, right? When the team was stinking up the joint, any sort of semi-pleasant aroma stood out and was grasped upon.
Thankfully for decision making clarity, the surface numbers meshed more with the metrics by the end of the year. Even a 5.00 ERA doesn’t quite tell the story though, does it? Hudson was bottom 4% in the league in xwOBA, the bottom 7% in hard hit percentage, and the very bottom percentile in K rate. This is a mixture that might have had some trouble working in the heyday of Dave Duncan and reclamation pitchers and using your defense. It’s certainly volatile in today’s game.
This is who Hudson is, though. He’s only reached 20% in strikeout rate once in his major league career (in 2020, which comes with its own silo of salt). He’s never struck out many, always walked too many, and relied on getting ground balls to make it to the major leagues. It’s unlikely that’s ever going to change and that K rate has declined every year since ’20. If it gets much lower, it’ll be in single digits.
There’s no doubt that anyone reading this post would trade their career for Hudson’s, don’t get me wrong. He’s a veteran major leaguer at this point and has had some success. However, the smoke is starting to clear and the mirrors seem to be cracked.
What’s in store for 2024: Even with the depth issues the Cardinals have in the pitching department, Hudson should probably be non-tendered. It’s estimated he might get $3.7 million in arbitration, which isn’t terrible but if the club is going to spend this winter as expected, they may have to trim the fat in other places. Besides, if Hudson is spending meaningful time on the club in ’24 (he does have two options left) we’re probably looking at another troubling season. Most likely the Cards will keep him around for insurance, however, and he’ll bounce between the bullpen and spot starting at times.