The first season of Daniel Hudson’s 2-year/$11M free agent deal with the Nationals, which he signed after helping Washington’s 2019 club win the first World Series by a D.C.-based team since 1924, did not go well, stat-wise.
The 33-year-old, 11-year veteran posted a 6.10 ERA, a 6.29 FIP, 11 walks (4.79 BB/9), 28 Ks (12.19 K/9), and a .195/.319/.468 line against in 21 games and 20 2⁄3 IP, with 10 saves in 15 opportunities on the season in the 60-game campaign.
“If you look back,” manager Davey Martinez said as the season wound down, “... I know he’s disappointed because of the results, but I thought he threw the ball really well. I really did.
“And that’s encouraging.”
Acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays ahead of the trade deadline in late July 2019, Hudson put up a 1.44 ERA, a 3.53 FIP, four walks (1.44 BB/9), 23 Ks (8.28 K/9) and a .200/.237/.356 line against in 24 games and 25 IP over which he recorded six saves in eight opportunities for the Nationals during the regular season.
In nine postseason appearances, the veteran reliever put up a 3.72 ERA, 4.04 FIP, four walks (3.72 BB/9), 10 Ks (9.31 K/9), and a .275/.356/.425 line against in 9 2⁄3 IP, with four saves over the course of the Nationals’ run.
“Here’s a guy that had some injuries early in his career, and last year we got him he was dealing with a knee injury and he pitched,” Martinez continued.
“Here’s a guy for me that wants the ball every day. And that’s to me — that’s a lot that you can say for a guy that had come off all these injuries. He takes the ball. He told me last night, hey he’s ready to pitch, whenever you need him he’s ready to pitch, and that means a lot, it means a lot to our ballclub, that we know what to expect and he goes out there and gives his all every single day.”
Hudson, who’s set to earn $6M in 2021 in the second year of his two-year deal, said during the final series of 2020 that he was looking forward to getting back to his family once it all ended, after being apart from them while playing in D.C. for the previous three months.
After that, there will be plenty of time to look back on the 60-game COVID campaign.
“There will be a lot of different things that I look back on, and whether or not they’re good or bad, about 2020, this season and everything that went down,” Hudson said.
“There’s a lot, and like I said, good and bad, you just kind of reflect on the good stuff and try to learn from all the bad stuff that happened or you did, or whatnot, and you go from there and try to get better.”
Getting used to the protocols put in place to help the players stay safe was an adjustment for everyone involved, and a change to long-established routines for players who are real routine-oriented, so it took some getting used to.
“Everything about this season was different,” Hudson acknowledged, but, “at the end of the day we were lucky to get through the season and hopefully we can just push through it and not have to look back on 2020 much longer.”
While he is looking back, however, Hudson was asked if he thought that the protocols and changes they had to make affected his own and the club’s on-field performance.
“On the field, obviously I would say there’s the injuries,” Hudson said. “We dealt with a lot of injuries this year, not that we’re the only team that went through that, but pretty significant injuries went down. I don’t know if you can completely blame it on the short ramp-up period or whatever, but whether or not those type of things were going to happen throughout the course of a regular 162-game season, they probably were going to, but it’s hard not to think that with a normal season, a normal Spring Training, that guys probably might have been able to stay relatively a little bit more healthy.”
Hudson, who has, as Martinez mentioned, dealt with his share of injuries over the years as well, including two Tommy John surgeries, was at least able to come out of the two-month sprint of a season with his arm still feeling good.
“Knock on wood it still feels pretty good. Being able to be available every night is kind of something I pride myself on, so I was able to do that this year.
“Body-wise, I feel pretty strong and healthy,” he said during the final weekend. “Knock on wood. We’ve still got a couple games left, but I can just kind of take that as a positive moving into the offseason, and try to get better. I’ve kind of told myself that I don’t have a bulk of innings this year, I might not have to take as much time off this year.
“I can kind of go straight into my offseason routine and hopefully go from there and get a little bit better.”
Coming off a 2019 campaign in which he worked a lot and was a little banged up, being as healthy as he was at the end of the 2020 season he said, was a big deal.
“It’s just — last year I had a bit of a knee issue going into the offseason, so I didn’t get, really get to — I didn’t start my offseason program till a little bit later,” Hudson explained, “... just because I was trying to rehab my knee a little bit. And kind of the unknown of free agency as well, I didn’t want to bother it too much.
“Kind of knowing I’m going to be here next year I can kind of just go into a normal offseason. I’ll kind of see how my arm feels in a couple weeks, maybe I’ll start throwing a little bit earlier this year than I did last year, just because of — the extra work in October last year kind of put a toll on my arm and my body, so I wanted to make sure I was fresh before I started throwing last year, so I think this year I might start a little bit earlier, and obviously like I said, I don’t have 60-70 games of use on my arm this year, so I can maybe try to work out some mechanical issues a little bit earlier and try to get better for Spring Training.”
In spite of the numbers overall, Hudson said, he did end up feeling good on the mound for the most part in 2020.
“Surprisingly — even though the numbers in a few games there don’t really show it, about probably I would say after I got a few games under my belt, I honestly feel like I was taking better stuff out there than I had at any point last year, especially recently. I had a few bad games, and a few blow-up games, blew a few saves, but it was just one pitch here or there and I feel like I was taking better stuff out there than I did any point last year, honestly, and that’s the truth. The results weren’t there, but the results haven’t been there for a lot of people this year, it’s been an odd year, it is what it is, a small sample size, and like I said, I’m not going to lose sleep over a small sample size of 60 games, 20 games for me, I’m not going to lose sleep over it. I’m going to go home and know I went out there with my best stuff and even though the results don’t say that I had a very good year, I know that I can take some really positive stuff into the offseason and learn from it and grow from it and hopefully be better in 2021.”