Hudson, Braves make three-year deal official

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In a deal that was agreed upon weeks ago and delayed by the need for a pre-signing physical exam, the Braves and Tim Hudson have officially completed a three-year contract extension that includes a fourth-year team option for 2013.
Atlanta held a $12 million option or $1 million buyout on Hudson for 2010, but the new contract supersedes that. Hudson will reportedly receive around $9 million per season after posting a 3.61 ERA in seven starts down the stretch to apparently convince the Braves that he’s fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.
Obviously handing a three-year contract to a 34-year-old who’s just 42 innings removed from elbow surgery carries plenty of risk, but Hudson looked very much like his old self in September and has had an ERA above 3.75 just twice in 11 seasons. For his career he’s 148-78 with a 3.49 ERA in 2,060 innings, including 56-39 with a 3.77 ERA since coming to the Braves from the A’s in a December of 2004 trade.
Atlanta’s outstanding rotation depth hardly made retaining Hudson a must, so the Braves must be very confident about his elbow. General manager Frank Wren explained that re-signing Hudson “allows us to take the next step,” which almost surely means trading at least one of Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, and Kenshin Kawakami for offensive help. Here’s more from Wren:

This does give us the depth and strength in one area of our club that allows us to do some other things now. We’re going to be looking at that over the next three to four weeks as we lead into the winter meetings. I think we’re a work in progress in that regard, still in feeling-out process with other clubs. This is the first step to it, and now we have some additional direction.

Lowe is 36 years old and just posted the second-worst ERA of his career, so shedding the remaining three years and $45 million on his contract will prove difficult unless the Braves are willing to eat a bunch of salary. Vazquez is coming off a fantastic season and will make $11.5 million in 2010 before becoming a free agent, so he’d be far easier to deal for significant value. Either way, with veteran starting pitching to shop the Braves will be major players at the winter meetings in a few weeks.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.