Hudson’s slow pitching pace still getting under the skin of Cardinals fans—and the team’s manager

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Dakota Hudson (43) is removed by manager Oliver Marmol...
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Dakota Hudson (43) is removed by manager Oliver Marmol during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)(Jeff Roberson | AP)
Published: Aug. 6, 2022 at 6:20 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - If Friday’s game between the Cardinals and Yankees at Busch Stadium was akin to a quarterback battle at a football training camp, Andre Pallante would have been declared the winner over Dakota Hudson.

Hudson, who retained a starting role over Pallante following the Cardinals’ trade deadline acquisitions of Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery this week, labored through his evening against the Yankees. After allowing a lead-off hit to Aaron Judge to begin the fifth, Hudson departed the game without recording an out in the inning.

After 78 pitches, Hudson’s final line included seven hits, two walks and three earned runs over four-plus innings—arguably a palatable sight compared to what it felt like watching him compile it.

Even Dak’s manager agreed with that sentiment.

“It feels worse because of the tempo,” Oliver Marmol said. “You sit there and you watch it, and if I’m being completely honest, it’s just slow. Our guys are on their feet a lot and it makes it look a lot worse than it is. But his misses, at times, are big.”

One way in which Hudson missed on Friday was in the way he started off innings. The 27-year-old right-hander allowed the first man to reach base in four of the first five innings that he started. With a penchant for double plays, he frequently gets out of those unsightly scenarios without getting burned too badly. But is that a feasible way to live?

The Cardinals are wondering the same thing.

“He has the ability to play with fire and figure out a way out of it, often. But is it sustainable?” Marmol pondered. “That’s the question we often ask ourselves, as well. We’d love to see a quicker pace and a crisper version of Hudson. We’re going to figure it out together. Because we think he has the ability to do it. Did it look good tonight? No, it didn’t.”

Scanning social media during Friday’s game, it was clear Cardinals fans didn’t find much visual appeal in Hudson’s lumbering approach, either.

Coupled with the reality of Hudson’s inconsistency is the notion of another prior occupant of the rotation pitching some sturdy, reliable baseball recently. Pallante’s eight scoreless innings last Sunday in D.C. marked the best start of his rookie season with St. Louis.

Relegated to the bullpen as a result of the new additions, Pallante took Hudson’s place on the mound in the fifth inning on Friday. Though he allowed the inherited runner to score, Pallante cruised through the remainder of his four-inning appearance.

He navigated the same number of outs at Hudson in 13 fewer pitches, allowing four fewer base hits to go along with the most important number of all—no runs.

Short outings or downright ineffective ones have become all-too commonplace for Hudson this season. After Friday’s grueling affair, only six of his 20 starts on the year have been Quality Starts, meaning he’s pitched at least six innings while allowing three or fewer earned runs in just 30% of his games this season.

While that rate isn’t the end-all, be-all for determining a pitcher’s success, it’s an unavoidable fact that Hudson’s QS% is among the lowest in the sport. Though Hudson has provided a number of more brief outings in which he succeeded in limiting the opponents’ scoring, his ERA tells the tail. After Friday’s effort, his 4.20 ERA this season strains the bounds of mediocrity from a pitcher who had never finished a big-league season with an ERA north of 3.35 prior to this year.

It was a necessity for the Cardinals to add pitching at the trade deadline. But when they did so, it was to avoid the frequency of these types of outings from their starters.

If the Cardinals’ plan for Pallante is to use him as Hudson’s inevitable backboard every fifth day, there are better ways to devise a roster. Holding back Pallante as an infrequent piggyback to rescue the player who was handed the job that Pallante did nothing to lose isn’t a justifiable approach.

If concern over Pallante’s workload contributed to the reasoning for his demotion to the bullpen, that’s an explanation that should be questioned after Friday’s game. If he’s relegated to rescue mode behind Hudson, four-inning relief outings could become the norm. That won’t help him stay under an innings ceiling.

It seems the Cardinals kept Hudson in the rotation through the deadline because they believe it was the path of least resistance. His ongoing deliberate pacing problems represent more resistance than the Cardinals bargained for.

This wasn’t the first time Marmol has called out Hudson’s pacing problems this season. And the manager stressed Friday that, as a groundball pitcher, it’s even more crucial that Hudson minds a snappy pace. Yet, in a campaign filled with tempo troubles for Hudson, Friday was especially glacial.

Could Friday cost Hudson his spot in the rotation? Marmol wasn’t ready to delve into that line of thought, saying that he wanted to avoid being reactionary in the moments following the game. But when asked how the Cardinals coaching staff plans to impress upon Hudson the importance of improving the pace—again—Marmol was resolute.

“We’ll get it done,” Marmol declared. “Yeah. We’ll have the conversation. We’ll make it important to him. And we’ll either see a change or we won’t. But the hope is that we see a change.”

Without a change from Hudson, it might end up being Marmol who needs to issue another one to his starting rotation.