Why the Yankees won't start Chad Gaudin
Way back on Oct. 27, a day that feels ages ago, the Yankees held a pre-World Series workout at Yankee Stadium, on the day before Game 1. Chad Gaudin, a right-handed pitcher who had been used exclusively in relief during the first two rounds of the playoffs, went through a simulated game of some 80 or so pitches in an effort to "stretch out" his arm -- because the Yankees were thinking about using him to start one of the games in the World Series.
Five games later, the Yankees have not started Gaudin, and it is clear at this point -- as we await Wednesday night's Game 6 -- that they will not. In this fine column, my esteemed colleague Tom Boswell argues the Yankees should have used Gaudin in Game 4, rather than sticking to a three-man rotation that forces them to use a starter on short rest in Games 4, 5, 6 and (if necessary) 7.
I almost never disagree with Boz, but in this case I do. Starting Chad Gaudin against the Phillies would have been a disaster. (Okay, as it turns out, A.J. Burnett in Game 5 was also a disaster, but his previous record on short rest suggested it would work.) Gaudin has always been vulnerable to left-handed hitters, and since coming to the Yankees in August, even more so. Lefties hit .297/.398/.446 (that's batting average/on-base/slugging) off him, for an OPS of .844, while right-handers hit just .207/.282/.435, for an OPS of .716 -- a difference of 128 points of OPS. That's pretty extreme, like the difference between facing a lineup full of David Wrights (.837 OPS) or a lineup full of Ryan Theriots (.712 OPS).
And against the Phillies' murderer's row of left-handed hitters -- chiefly, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez -- it would have been fatal. This season, the Phillies led the NL in homers and slugging percentage against right-handers. So with Gaudin, you would have been sending a right-hander who struggles against lefties to the mound to face a predominantly left-handed lineup that devours right-handers. That's a horrible mix.
If we're going to blame anyone for the Yankees' decision to stick with a three-man rotation, it should be General Manager Brian Cashman, not Manager Joe Girardi. It was Cashman's job to build the Yankees' roster, and somehow, despite a payroll of over $200 million, they could not come up with a serviceable fourth starter in the postseason. Yes, the injuries to Chien-Ming Wang and Ian Kennedy, plus the struggles of Joba Chamberlain as a starter, handcuffed them. But every team suffers attrition in its starting rotation, and it smacks of mismanagement that the Yankees couldn't come up with a fourth starter they could trust, when they have known for months they would be a playoff team.
In any case, it's Andy Pettitte starting for the Yankees on Wednesday night -- on short rest. The last time he started on short rest? Sept. 30, 2006. The last time he did so after throwing 100+ pitches in his previous start? July 19, 2001. In that start, against the Tigers, Pettitte gave up 10 hits and seven earned runs in only four innings in an 11-2 loss. And he was 29 years old at the time. Now, he's 37.
"Yikes," you say?
I say: Against this lineup, I'd still rather have Pettitte out there than Gaudin.
Posted by: Brue | November 4, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse
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