The most reliable Braves starter for a majority of this season was Tim Hudson. The potential Comeback Player of the Year award winner made the All-Star team and was a large reason for the Braves first place standing for 99 days through the summer months.
There has been ongoing debates throughout the season discussing how Hudson was limiting so many runs. His walk rate was up and his strikeouts were down, but he was forcing batters to ground out at an incredible rate. He was fortunate that hitters were hitting grounders right to fielders, but he has not been as lucky lately.
In his first 24 starts, Hudson had a 2.13 ERA, a .212 batting average against, allowed 10 home runs, and had hitters had a .235 average on balls in play.
Through his past eight starts dating back to August 18, Hudson has a 4.94 ERA, a .285 batting average against, he has allowed eight home runs, and hitters have a .325 average on balls in play.
This is not exactly what the Braves envisioned from their veteran "ace" down the stretch run. Last night's performance with the wildcard on the line was simply awful. Walking six batters in 5.2 innings was extremely unsettling. Hudson still has a .280 ERA this year, but his .254 BABIP is second lowest in the National League. A regression was obviously due, but nobody could have expected him to pitch this poorly in the season's final two months.
Looking deeper into his numbers, he actually hasn't thrown the ball much better than Derek Lowe this season. His ground ball rate is a bit higher, but his minuscule BABIP compared to Lowe's .307 mark is the true difference between their production.
Tim Hudson: 2.80 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 3.83 xFIP
Derek Lowe: 4.18 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 3.76 xFIP
As you can see, the more predictive statistics such as FIP and xFIP show that they have pitched similarly this season. The differences between each number are marginal, but Hudson's run prevention has been much lower, which is again mostly due to his luck on balls in play.
If the Braves are going to compete in the post-season, if they do actually get there, they need Tim Hudson to be more like the pitcher for his first 24 starts rather than his last eight. Hudson would be matched up with opposing number ones in a playoff series, so there will be little tolerance for performances like last night's come October.