Hudson another upgrade for Twins
Updated: February 5, 2010, 2:15 PM ETBy Keith Law
The Twins continue a quietly solid offseason that should make them contenders again in a weak division in 2010 by signing Orlando Hudson, a far better hitter than anyone the Twins ran out at second base in 2009. Minnesota's second basemen "hit" -- and I use that term loosely -- an aggregate .209/.302/.267 in 2009; American League second basemen (including the Twins' culprits) hit .275/.336/.428 on the season. That offensive sinkhole cost the Twins at least two wins over the course of last season, which at the very least meant the difference between entering the playoffs with a somewhat rested pitching staff and entering them having thrown everything against the wall just to get in. Hudson had an unusually strong year hitting from the left side, but even if he reverts to his previous form at the plate will give the Twins more baserunners and more thump from a position where they were getting marginally more offense than they'd have received from sending a good-hitting pitcher to the plate. Hudson was a premium defensive player while he was with Toronto, but spent the last four years with teams that emphasized defense less than the Jays did, and his defense suffered, with traditional evaluations and defensive metrics agreeing that he was average or even a tick below. It's possible that was just a function of age, but it's also possible that Hudson needs to be with a coach (or staff) who works with him constantly on his glovework for him to be effective on defense; it's one area of the game where coaching can make a huge difference, including areas like positioning. The Twins have generally run good defensive clubs out there the last few years, and they've been willing to sacrifice some offense for better defense -- it's mostly speculation on my part, but I think there's a good chance that Hudson rediscovers some of his lost defensive value in Minnesota. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote Friday that the Dodgers were disappointed in how slow Hudson was, even referring to him as "Slow-Dawg," a play on his "O-Dawg" nickname. This struck me as incredibly funny, since I saw Hudson a lot when we were both in Toronto, and he was never a plus runner, stealing 19 bases in three and a half years -- yet when he was on first base, pitchers would throw over to hold him with absurd frequency. And from talking to people with Arizona, I know they noticed the same phenomenon when Hudson played there. Unfortunately, I think the cause here is that Hudson looks the part of a speedy, low-power middle infielder, and scouts and coaches are making assumptions that just don't bear out in reality. He's not fast, he's never been fast, and anyone who files a report on him with a grade of 50 (average) or better for his running speed has made a bad evaluation.
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