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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.

By Dave Sheinin  |  November 4, 2009; 2:50 PM ET
 
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Comments

>I say: Against this lineup, I'd still rather have Pettitte out there than Gaudin.

You're right, they didn't buy a 4th starter, but that's the easy way out. It's Girardi's fault for not having Gaudin ready, but even with that, Gaudin's more likely to be able to work his way out of trouble with a strikeout or a ground ball because his arm is fresh and he can reach back for something extra. Pettite was running on fumes the LAST game, and if he's not hitting his spots, he's screwed. He doesn't throw that hard, it's not like he can just sit back and spot his fastball, he needs movement, and he said he couldn't feel his breaking pitches hardly at all last time. He works better on an EXTRA day's rest. And he's 37. That's at least 4 red flags. Besides, the bullpen hasn't been used all that much, and Gaudin could start and go 4 or whatever, and use the bullpen committee throughout the game. It's like Blanton - Charlie Manuel had enough balls to start a guy like him, and Girardi doesn't. Like Boz says, he committed too early to his rotation, which is another sign he's choking. I would be thoroughly amazed if Pettite didn't get hammered. If the Phils make him throw strikes, he's toast. And they're too good to go chasing. Hell, they could have given Chamberlain an extra day off and started him and rode him as long as he could. He'd be good for at least 50 pitches, he's a big farm boy. He'd live through it. But the Yankees won't.

Posted by: Brue | November 4, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

"f 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."

Thanks for that. I've been saying for years Brian Cashman is the most overrated ma in sports, period. He's never built a solid rotation or even a decent bullpen since he's been there. (He inherited Rivera.)

Posted by: dlk117561 | November 4, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

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