There is officially just one more week left in the baseball regular season. The long grind of 162 games is almost complete, but also coming to a close are the long careers of Tim Hudson and Aramis Ramirez, who will both go down as two of the more underappreciated players in recent memory.
Hudson has always lacked “it” — in part, because he’s slight and unassuming on the mound. He’s not an intimidating presence, and he never gobbled up strikeouts. (He’s had just 12 games with 10 or more strikeouts.) He has appeared in just three All-Star games, won 20 games just once, never won a Cy Young Award and only garnered votes for the award four times. He has played on only two losing teams in his career — the 2006 and 2008 Braves — but he has no defining postseason moments to help him out.
Meanwhile, Ramirez has led the league in exactly one category, with 50 doubles in 2012. He was generally regarded as only average defensively and he never won a gold glove. He has no World Series rings or appearances, and no MVP’s, only collecting votes in five separate seasons. However, Ramirez and Hudson were both as consistent as they come and their production cannot be ignored.
Hudson has 13 seasons of double-digit victories and eight of at least 200 innings. He was one of the reasons the Moneyball A’s won as often as they did and his career ERA is 3.49, a hair lower than recent Hall of Fame inductee and former teammate Tom Glavine. The 40-year-old right-hander also boasts a .627 career winning percentage (tied for 55th all-time) and his 121 ERA+ tops that of Red Faber, Bob Lemon and Rollie Fingers, all of which have their places in baseball history.
His 222 victories are tied with Jerry Koosman for 73rd on the all-time list and are enough to be the active leader, four more than Bartolo Colon. His 2,079 strikeouts are bested by just 65 other men, not including the likes of Red Ruffing, Catfish Hunter and Whitey Ford.
Jay Jaffe’s JAWS ranks Hudson as the 77th-most-Hall-worthy pitcher, putting him in the middle of a crop of pitchers that includes Early Wynn, Don Sutton and Sandy Koufax, all of whom are enshrined in the Hall. But he still falls well short of the average for Hall of Fame pitchers, 62.1. His 57.3 WAR is also short of many pitchers in Cooperstown, but ranks 67th all-time smack in the middle of Frank Tanana and Koosman.
Plaque or not, Hudson ranks as one of the best players of his generation, and the same can be said about the 37-year old Ramirez. He has spent his entire career in the NL Central and was signed at age 16 as an amateur free agent by the Pirates in 1994. He made his big league debut in 1998 and spent five-plus seasons in Pittsburgh before being dealt to the Cubs at the trade deadline in 2003.
Ramirez made a name for himself in the Windy City, where he batted .294 with 239 home runs and 806 RBIs, made the playoffs three times and became the player the Pirates always envisioned him as. Except for a poor season in 2002, he then settled in for an impressive decade-plus run of remarkable consistency. His single-season OPS+ level never exceeded 139, but sat in a narrow band in the 120’s and 130’s for 10 of the 13 seasons between 2001 and 2013.
He has been an All-Star three times, finished in the Top 10 for league MVP three times and won a Silver Slugger Award. Among players who played 50% or more of their games at the hot corner, Ramirez’s 2,301 hits rank ninth, his 494 doubles rank seventh, his 1,417 RBIs are good for sixth and his 386 longballs rank fifth behind Mike Schmidt (548), Eddie Mathews (512), Chipper Jones (468) and Adrian Beltre (411). His .493 slugging percentage ranks seventh, and he has also accumulated a career batting average of .283 and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .834.
Such numbers put him very close to the most recent third baseman to make the Hall of Fame, former Cub Ron Santo, — a .283 batting average to Santo’s .277, and 386 home runs with 1,417 RBIs to Santo’s 342 and 1,331. Ramirez has had a sneaky good career and he was basically a reasonable offensive facsimile of his contemporary, Beltre, who is a slam dunk Hall of Famer. However, voters have traditionally had a difficult time with third basemen and the hot corner is Cooperstown’s most underrepresented position with just 11 members.
In hanging up the spikes for good, Ramirez and Hudson are shutting the door on their respective Hall of Fame candidacies, but that shouldn’t make us appreciate them any less. They will both be remembered as consistent and productive players who weren’t quite Hall of Famers, but worthy of the discussion.