Orlando Hudson and Jason Bartlett aren’t going anywhere. That much is clear. No one seems to want them, they make too much, and the market for second basemen or shortstops is very thin. With that in mind, how productive can the Padres expect their middle infield to be? We know how productive it was in 2011, but there’s always that small glimmer of hope that it was nothing more than an anomaly.
Hudson is 34 and clearly on the back end of his career. He had the worst year of his career in San Diego in 2011, a year he surely wants to forget. He fought through injuries which is far from a rare occurrence. 2012 doesn’t look much more promising, but if the Padres are stuck with him, let’s review our most optimistic prediction for Hudson next season.
In 2009, Hudson put up 3.7 WAR, something the Padres could only have dreamed of last year. He hit .283/.357/.419. He stole less bases in 2009 than he did last season with the Padres, but he was an All-Star and had arguably the best season of his career. So what happened between then and last season? Hudson got older, but he didn’t forget how to play baseball. What seems to be the case is the natural bell curve of a player’s career. Take Hudson’s OBP over the years as an example.
While there is a slight up/down trend between 2002 and 2005, Hudson’s graphs reads like a normal bell curve. His talent increases as he reaches his prime, then starts to taper off as he gets older. However, his OBP is still slightly above league average. If his OBP is still above league average, what else could be causing his struggles?
Hudson played in the second fewest games of his career (aside from his rookie year), but he had his highest strikeout percentage.
Hudson experienced his highest K% of his career. Combined with his decreasing OBP, Hudson put up just 1 WAR for San Diego last season. If he can reduce his strikeouts, he may be able to put up a WAR closer to 2.0 which would be a welcome increase for the Padres.
Bill James predicts a .263/.329/.380 line for the 2012 season. He also predicts a reduction in Hudson’s K%. If these predictions are accurate, the Padres may actually have an asset at second base.
Let’s move on to Jason Bartlett. Interestingly enough, Bartlett also had his best season in 2009. He hit .320/.389/.490. He was an All-Star (the only time in his career). And he put up 4.7 WAR. That was during his age 30 season. He is now entering his age 32 season. 32 is not the end of a career, but it’s not the beginning either. Yet the drop off from then to 2011 with the Padres was intense.
In 2011, Bartlett managed less than 1 WAR, hit .245/.308.307, and had an OPS+ of just 76. That’s a large drop-off in just two years. Let’s explore where Bartlett’s struggled have stemmed from.
Bartlett’s OBP has never been all that good. He’s had just two seasons above league average, 2006 and 2009. Yet, his OBP is still trending downward. Combined with Bartlett’s ISO, his OBP is troubling. Here’s how Bartlett’s compared to the league in ISO over his career.
The fact is, Bartlett has never been all that good. To expect much more than the numbers he put up last season would be unrealistic.
The Padres middle infield is in trouble next season, but with Hudson there is at least some hope. Bartlett on the other hand is probably a lost cause. With the offensive changes made by Josh Byrnes this off-season, any additional production from Hudson can help the team immensely. In fact, additional production from Hudson will be necessary to overcome Bartlett’s shortcomings.