Daniel Hudson is Nationals' prime candidate for regression


Spring training comes with a flood of caveats. When performance matters is subjective in south Florida. The idea is unequivocal during the regular season. All the numbers count, the purpose is clear and the measurements are unforgiving. In Florida, bad nights can be passed off with a shrug and point at the calendar, if the person in question is not competing for a job.

So, when Daniel Hudson follows a first bad outing with a worse one, any reaction needs to be tempered. But, what the Nationals need to be more wary of than Hudson’s current spring ERA of 40.50 is the ample evidence that last season was more outlier than repeatable.

Hudson's 322 ERA-plus (which accounts for park factors) in Washington last year blows away his prior high of 251 in Arizona, which happened 10 years ago across 11 starts. Hudson’s strikeout rate was up and ERA way down after joining the Nationals following a trade deadline exchange with Toronto for minor-leaguer Kyle Johnston. His 3.53 FIP (fielding independent pitching) last year while in Washington suggests his 1.44 ERA was largely rooted in luck and defense. This all points to a pending regression.

So, when his ERA rises this season, his slider isn’t as effective and the questions start to come, don’t be surprised. Hudson has a decade of work suggesting he’s not the pitcher who was so effective across 24 regular-season games before becoming the man to end it all with a slider under the hands of Michael Brantley. And, the extra workload -- no one had a more whirlwind October on and off the field -- is something Hudson has often mentioned since emerging from winter for a return to the mound.

He at least has padding around him. Sean Doolittle, who also pitched poorly Thursday, and Will Harris are in the back of the bullpen. It’s not Hudson alone, tasked with replicating his work once arriving in Washington, which was by far the best stint of his career.

For now, he’s pitched in just two games this spring and recorded four outs. Davey Martinez told reporters Hudson’s location was poor Thursday. The Nationals hope they don’t have to do too much explaining on his behalf once the team is back north and subjective becomes fact though his past numbers suggest his future ones will not be as shiny as 2019.

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