Dakota Hudson is a confusing pitcher. He walks the house and struggles to generate strikeouts. But, he's a ground ball specialist, often inducing groundouts in key situations, and securing valuable double plays. This allows him to consistently perform above his stuff, and it's the reason that he somehow has a career ERA of 3.82. That's nearly a full point below his career FIP of 4.62. Hudson defies the laws of pitching, and he does so on a regular basis. He's 38-19 in his career, which also demonstrates that he receives tons of run support. All of this says that though it might not be pretty, Hudson gets the job done.
So is Hudson a viable fifth starter? The Cardinals have been forced to ask this question a number of times. Now, most people seem to be leaning towards no, especially considering the fact that he's been less effective over the last two seasons. Since missing most of 2021, he certainly hasn't been the same pitcher, but it's not hard to imagine him returning to form. After all, Dakota Hudson's form doesn't require strikeout stuff or pinpoint accuracy. It just requires ground balls, and a lot of them. And, as he's shown, even if he's not in form, he'll probably still win a lot of ballgames.
It's completely antithetical to the statistical revolution and to modern baseball in general. But it's also difficult to argue with. Fans will point out that Hudson's starts feel like a "tightwire act" and they're right. Even with two outs and nobody on, there's always the chance that Hudson will suddenly implode. He's been known to walk multiple hitters in a row, and his sinker isn't designed to miss bats. Thus, even with runners on, he dares the hitter to make contact.
Hudson is currently starting for the Cardinals, but I don't expect that to continue in 2024. They've shown (at least verbally) a strong commitment to strikeout stuff, and that just isn't in Hudson's repertoire. He's probably going to be fighting for a roster spot in the spring, thus he needs to prove to the team that he deserves one. At his best, Hudson is a perfectly viable long reliever, and it's fine to have him as a depth starter. If Hudson can get back on track after a few tough starts, including September 11th's loss in Baltimore, he lock down a spot on next year's active roster. However, if he struggles, he faces the possibility of being non-tendered this off-season, as he likely holds little trade value and is running out of options.