Data: 15-8, 2.62 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 1.97 K/BB
Malfunction: On Aug. 18, Tim Hudson had a 2.15 ERA and was one of the leading candidates for the NL Cy Young award. His Braves were also 2.5 games up in the division, and two weeks later I predicted they'd lock down a pennant. Since then, Hudson has gone 1-3 with a 5.17 ERA — including six runs and two Albert Pujols(notes) homers his last time out — and the Braves have gone 12-14 to fall to second place. So what's wrong with Huddy?
Diagnosis: For most of the year, it looked like Hudson was playing with fire. He had one of the lowest strikeout rates in the league and a mediocre strikeout-to-walk ratio, two big statistical red flags. And, like Trevor Cahill(notes), he's had a couple bad starts to compensate.
Here's the weird thing, though: Hudson has improved those stats categories tremendously over the past month, even as he's given up a bunch of runs. Over his past five starts he has 31 K and just six walks in 31 1/3 innings, almost double the strikeouts and more than double the K/BB ratio. But when he isn't striking people out he's getting hammered, giving up 36 hits, including 16 extra-base hits and four homers in those five games. To a large extent, it has simply been a BABIP correction: He had an unsustainable .241 BABIP through August 18, and since then his BABIP has been .337. It's encouraging to see his strikeouts rise and walks fall even as he's getting hit-unlucky.
Reboot Directions: Hudson wasn't as good as his ERA looked earlier in the year, and his ERA has risen half a run in the past month just to prove it. But he's still a terrific pitcher, and his improving component ratios bode well for his next couple of weeks. The Braves will need all the help they can get, as they're in the fight for their lives to find their way into the playoffs.
Who else is currently slumping?
Rickie Weeks(notes), Milwaukee Brewers .261/.356/.458, 26 HR, 78 RBIs, 10 SB
Write it in stone: This has been the best season of Rickie Weeks' career. It's the first time that the frequently injured Brewer has ever played more than 130 games, and he's set career highs in most offensive stats. But he's had a rough ending to his summer. Since the beginning of August, he's hitting .214 with 54 whiffs in 38 games. He's struck out 10 times in his last four games. He's now third in the majors in strikeouts, behind only Mark Reynolds(notes) and Adam Dunn(notes), but he has fewer walks than either of them. Rickie was always strikeout-prone, but this is worrisome. It may be an issue of timing, but with Rickie Weeks, you always fear the worst.
Jair Jurrjens(notes), Atlanta Braves 7-6, 4.64 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 2.05 K/BB
Tim Hudson isn't the only Brave starting pitcher who's been struggling of late. Jurrjens had a bad April, then went on the DL for the next two months. He pitched quite well in his first 10 starts off the DL, with a 3.02 ERA. But he hit a wall at almost the exact same time that Hudson did, giving up seven runs to the Colorado Rockies in a game where the Braves actually blew a 10-1 lead. Since Aug. 25, Jurrjens has a 7.09 ERA in five games, and since shoulder problems abbreviated his spring training and a hamstring injury stole two months of his season, you have to ask: Is he healthy?
Ryan Ludwick(notes), San Diego Padres .265/.336/.441, 15 HR, 61 RBIs
No one expected Ludwick to reproduce 2008. But it certainly didn't help when the Cardinals* shipped him off to the worst hitters' park in the majors, San Diego's impossibly cavernous PETCO. Ludwick is hitting just .234 in a Padres uniform, while the offense-starved Padres have lost 14 of their last 23.
Ludwick is drawing walks and hitting line drives at his usual rates, but his BABIP is lower than usual and his home park has killed him. But he also isn't a big-time slugger, either, despite the expectations raised by his monster 2008. Right now, his batting average is exactly the same as it was in 2009, his OBP is seven points higher and his slugging is six points lower than it was in 2009, his seemingly disappointing followup campaign. He's just a reasonable corner outfielder. Nothing's wrong with him, other than the park he calls home.