For Tim Hudson, it was just a matter of (way too much) time.
A pitcher who has been labeled as a great guy, a mentor, an ace, and probably even a winner over a 16-year career, Hudson makes his first start beyond a League Divisional series today against a former NL West nemesis John Lackey. You could say Hudson's teams have had poor fortune in the playoffs, but that wouldn't quite encompass the anomaly that his career has been up until this point.
Working out the math
With the surge in analytics that seemingly tell us more about sports than ever before, baseball is growing infamous for having the most uniform championship odds. That means that, more so than the NBA, NFL or NHL, the baseball playoffs are the biggest crapshoot in sports. It may be tough for some to believe, but there's plenty of work that dispels the myths we've grown so familiar with. In fact, Ben Lindbergh did just that in one of the baseball columns of the year before the playoffs started. Plain and simple: the only connection math has found between the regular season and playoff success has been wins in the regular season. And Tim Hudson has had plenty of those.
Hudson played on seven teams that bowed out in the LDS. Of those seven, four came with Oakland in consecutive seasons from 2000-2003. The other three came with Atlanta in 2005, 2010 and 2013. Those seven teams combined to win 669 regular season games - or 95.5 per year. But they were bested by the Yankees twice, the Twins, the Red Sox, the Astros, the Giants and the Dodgers.
The expanded wildcard format also hasn't been very nice to "Tough Luck" Tim. His Braves found themselves in a one-game playoff with a St. Louis team that won six less games than Atlanta in the first season of the expanded playoffs (2012). You might remember Andrelton Simmons and the infamous infield fly call that turned ugly in Atlanta. Long story short, the Cardinals won a virtual coin flip situation and marched on.
But while Hudson got the short end of the straw under the new format, he was the unassuming victim three times over. Excluding 2012, when his Braves were the best second-place team in the National League, Hudson has played on three second-place teams. And in 1999, 2004, and 2011, all three of those teams would have had a chance to compete in a one-game wildcard playoff with the current format. Of course, no one could have noticed it at the time.
If you've been following along, that leaves just four seasons of Tim Hudson unaccounted for. From 2006-2009, the Braves weren't very good. Atlanta finished third three times and fourth once during that stretch, but still averaged over 80 wins a season. Two of those teams finished in third with a winning record, which leaves 2006 and 2008 when the Braves won 79 and 72 games, respectively. In those two seasons, Hudson went 24-19.
Can one of the game's steadfast winners be an equally prolific loser? In the career of Tim Hudson, it would seem anything is possible. And for a pitcher who's done nothing but perform over the grind only to lose in the most heart-breaking of spots, maybe Huddy can be the man America roots for in a series that desperately needs a storyline for those outside of St. Louis and San Francisco. Might 2014, the only losing season of Tim Hudson's career, be the year one of the game's best gets his ring?