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Adam Kennedy is better than Orlando Hudson

or, at least, he was last year.

I’m going to respectfully disagree w/ my esteemed colleague who yesterday, stated that he found Orlando Hudson the "most interesting" of the middle infield options. I find him the scariest, not b/c he’s a bad player – he most certainly is not. What I find scary is the affection that so many Cards’ fans and so many in the media seem to have for him.

Stories are legion on the internet about the season Adam Kennedy had defensively last year. Hudson is assumed to be the best, or one of the best, defensive 2b in baseball, but last year Kennedy outplayed him at the keystone. To be sure, Kennedy is not good defensively but, as you’ll see below, Kennedy’s defense last year was good enough to outweigh the difference between the two players’ offense.

First of all, when looking at +/-, it’s clear that the less-heralded Kennedy was superior defensively.

+/- Innings
Kennedy +19 635.2
Hudson -4 904.2

The gap is 23 plays but you’d have to believe that if Kennedy had played as frequently as Hudson, the gap would have been considerably wider. Indeed, had Kennedy played the same number of innings as Hudson and if his defense had been at the same level over the additional 170 or so innings, Kennedy would have been a +27 – a 31 play difference between the two players. That’s wider than the gap between Pujols and Ryan Howard at a more difficult defensive position. It’s substantial.

PMR comes to a similar conclusion. According to PMR, Kennedy was more than 7 outs per 1000 plays better than Hudson. If Kennedy had been on the field as often as Hudson last year, Kennedy would have been nearly 19 plays better than Hudson just by PMR.

Beyond the boxscore took the PMR numbers and figured out the difference in the number of runs prevented for all second baseman. Dan Turkenkopf determined that, again, Kennedy was the best defensive 2B in baseball and that he would have been a full 23 runs better than Hudson had they both played full seasons. That’s about 2.5 wins better than Hudson defensively.

Ok, so what about the offensive difference? I hasten to remind everyone, however, that Hudson is particularly known for his defense. He’s a fine offensive player but he’s played in some pretty darned good offensive environments as well. Moving to Busch isn’t going to improve his offensive numbers, in all likelihood. Let’s go to Justin Inaz’s spreadsheet, which encompasses offense, defense, as well as a positional adjustment reflecting the difficulty of playing the keystone.

RAR Fielding Pos. Adj. Total Value
Kennedy 1.9 15.7 0.7 18.2
Hudson 16.9 -5.6 1.6 12.9

Here we see that Kennedy, in 169 fewer innings and 90 fewer PAs, was more than half a win better than Hudson last season. Yesterday, Dan stated that perhaps Hudson’s poor defensive season was "fluky", and he might be right. Was he really more than half a win BELOW AVERAGE defensively last year? Maybe not but Justin’s defensive numbers are based on THT’s RZR which had Hudson last in the NL among regular second-sackers. Again, this is a range statistic. Even if it’s off some, Hudson’s range appears to have declined considerably.

We should also consider the following:

  • Hudson turns 31 in less than a month
  • Hudson has finished each of the last 2 seasons on the D.L.
  • Only twice has Hudson played more than 140 games in a season – in his first full season (age 25) and in his age 28 season
  • He’s had only 3 of his 6 seasons w/ an OPS+ greater than 100. All were played w/ 81 games in one of the best hitters’ parks in baseball and another 10 or so games/season in Coors Field
  • Lots of teams could be in the market for second basemen this offseason
  • Hudson is probably considered to be the premier second-sacker on the market
Is there any doubt that Hudson will likely command a contract in the neighborhood of 3 years and $25 M or so? This would be for his age 31, 32, and 33 seasons. Do I need to point out that middle infielders who lack power and whose defense is primarily based on their range do not tend to age well?

Now, I’m not saying that Kennedy will be better than Hudson next year, necessarily, or even over the next 3 years. Let’s face it, had Kennedy played as often as Hudson last year, the defensive gap would have widened but the offensive gap would have widened as well – and possibly more than the defensive gap since it would have meant Kennedy getting a disproportionate share of those extra PAs vs. lefties (.270/.299/.297 splits in ’08). However, before we jettison Kennedy and replace him w/ Orlando Hudson, shouldn’t we ask the very legitimate question: Which contract is better – Kennedy’s 1 year/$4.5 M contract or Hudson’s 3 year/$25 M contract? I’m ok w/ the notion of replacing Kennedy next season but I’m not sure I see the logic in replacing him JUST to replace him. If it’s a bad contract, in that he’s not worth the money he’s getting – and he appears to be worth the $4.5 M, btw, -- why would we turn around and make a bigger mistake by paying MORE for someone who may only be slightly better than the guy we’re tossing aside?

It is true that Kennedy is nearly 2 years older than Hudson so I’m ok w/ trying to find someone who can provide more offense than Kennedy provides. But if Kennedy saves 15 to 20 runs per year defensively, does it make sense to pay big money for someone to gain us 15 to 20 runs per year offensively? Last I checked, 20 = 20. It’s 20 runs above average – slightly more than 2 wins above average either way.

So I guess I’m ok w/ going w/ Kennedy, or getting rid of Kennedy and replacing him w/ Miles and Lopez on 1 year deals. I’m ok w/ trying out Hoffpauir, maybe in a platoon of sorts w/ one of the others. BTW, Felipe, Dan was right – get real. I know your total value was 18.5 as a Card but it was -10 as a Nat. That’s 8.5 for the season – the same as Ryan Langerhans and less than Craig Counsell. If one year w/ the Cards isn’t good enough, get a multi-year deal from someone else. I wonder if he wasn’t a little more motivated as a Card w/ free agency fast approaching. If he gets a long-term deal, does he lose his motivation?

Anyway, a long-term deal w/ Hudson strikes me as a really bad idea considering that he’s only marginally better than what we currently have. Rather than opening the bank for him, I’d rather keep Kennedy and open it for Furcal or, better yet, find a way to trade for a young SS, go w/ Kennedy, and sign Randy Johnson.