The Yankees' trade for Chad Gaudin may prove to be one of the most important moves of the 2009 season for any team. Even by writing those words on the day he notched his first win as a Yankee in relief, part of my sense of reason labels this reasoning as absurd.
His career statistics are nothing impressive. In seven big league seasons (only 1 3/4 as a regular starter) Gaudin is a modest 32-35 with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.521 WHIP. This is most definitely not the stat line of a pitcher who — even at the relatively young age of 26 — should be projected for a high level of major league success. The quandary with Gaudin is that if one physically watches him pitch, on some nights, one might project him as one of the future better No. 2 or No. 3 starters in the game based totally on perception..
Gaudin does not have over-powering stuff but he has enough command and a good amount of movement to enable him to strike people out. It is his control that has always been the catalyst for his inconsistency. Chad has always posted good strikeout numbers relative to his innings pitched — posting a career 7.0 K/9 career ratio — but this season his control has once again eluded him at inopportune times, most obviously in Gaudin's poor starts listed below. Not always translating into pure walk numbers, Gaudin consistently getting behind batters in these rough outings forced him into poor pitchers counts, and inevitably he was hammered, not because of his inherent hitability, but because of his sporadic loss of ability to work the corners that is so vital to his success.
Gaudin's worst starts in 2009:
May 3 vs. Dodgers: 5.2 IP, 6 ER, 8 H, 3 BB, 5 K
May 14 vs. Cubs: 4.1 IP, 4 ER, 1 H, 7 BB (!), 5 K
May 25 vs. D'backs: 5.1 IP, 7 ER, 5 H, 5 BB, 6 K
June 12 vs. Angels: 3 IP, 8 ER, 10 H, 0 BB, 1 K
And his best starts in 2009:
June 23 vs. Mariners: 7 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 11 K
June 28 vs. Rangers: 8 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 2 BB, 9 K
July 8 vs. D'backs: 6.2 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 4 BB, 7 K
July 16 vs. Rockies: 5 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 4 BB, 8 K
The start against Texas specifically — total domination over one of the best offenses in baseball — shows that Gaudin possesses the ability and potential to compete against the elite teams. Conversely the start against the very good Anaheim Angels shows that against other elite clubs and on certain nights, Gaudin has been rendered horribly and repulsively ineffective. Although, even on his poorest of nights he's not too much worse than Sergio Mitre has been since his ill-advised call-up. It must be noted that these stats, although showing some signs of encouragement they — with the exception of the Texas gem — were mostly accumulated in the highly inferior National League. It is questionable how well these other positive stat-lines will translate to the much more demanding AL East.
Even given his inconsistently though, its seems like Gaudin is the logical next choice for a shot at the fifth starter's role. The current placeholder, Mitre, is sporting an egregious 7.04 ERA and a 1.93 WHIP that can't make a self-proclaimed, reborn sabermetric thinker/theorist like Brian Cashman happy at all.
The Yankees currently have a comfortable lead over the Red Sox but that can change rather quickly with one rotator cuff injury to any of their super-starters currently populating the rotation. Because of their lack of depth of starting pitching, and Mitre's constant inability to get people out, it is clearly time for
Joe Girardi to give Gaudin a chance at starting ball games. Obviously the teams he starts against should be chosen with discretion, but unfortunately for a team as red hot as the Yankees, Gaudin may be their only viable option, especially if they intend to regulate Joba Chamberlain's innings. But in some rare cases — especially in ones in which the subject has a K/9 ratio like Gaudin's — the only viable option turns out to be surprisingly the best one.