Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Game 152: Born On The Bayou

Ervin Santana takes the mound for the Angels tonight. This has been a bit of a lost season for Santana. He didn't make his 2009 debut until May 14th due to injury, and went back on the DL from June 11th until July 3rd. For the year, he's 7-8 with a 5.43 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. In seven career starts against the Yanks, Santana is 5-2 but with a whopping 5.09 ERA.

We haven't paid a ton of attention to Chad Gaudin since he was acquired from San Diego on August 6th. Gaudin almost immediately became lost in the shuffling of the Yankee pitching staff. He became the swingman, spot starting when necessary and serving as long relief for Sergio Mitre and Joba Chamberlain. In his first three weeks as a Yankee he pitched just 9.1 innings. He's now made eight apperances with the Yankees and has appeared on six, five, and seven days rest; he'll go on five again tonight.

Yet Chad Gaudin is both actively and passively becoming a bigger part of the Yankees' post-season picture. Once considered a bubble candidate for the post-season roster, Gaudin is now a virtual lock for October. That isn't only because of his performance, which has been solid if unspectacular, but because his versatility makes him valuable. This past week, he became the official fifth starter, with Mitre being banished to relief work exclusively. Come October, should Andy Pettitte's shoulder falter or should A.J. Burnett have another bout of ineffectiveness, Chad Gaudin (if not Alfredo Aceves) may be the first name called from the pen. If Joba Chamberlain continues to struggle, Gaudin may become the more palatable choice for a Game Four start. If David Robertson's elbow troubles leave him ineffective or unable to pitch in the post-season, Gaudin and his 8.6 K/9 may be deployed in some critical middle relief situations.

Tonight will be Gaudin's fifth start for the Yankees. He's yet to pick up a decision as a starter, largely due to his inability to go deep into games - which can be attributed to both ineffectiveness and inactivity. Yet the Yankees have managed to win all four of his starts, and are 6-2 in his eight appearances with the club. He had his best outing as a Yankee two starts ago against the Rays, and came up one out short of a second consecutive quality start when he faced the Blue Jays last Wednesday.

He's shown progress, reducing his walks in recent appearances, which have been his Achilles heel this year. He has had better results with the Yankees despite leaving the friendly confines of Petco Park and the National League, but the cause for concern is that Gaudin's peripherals were much better with the Padres. With the Yankees, his walk rate has increased slightly, his K rate has decreased somewhat, and his HR/9 has more than tripled. If that catches up with him at some point he'll lose a lot of his current luster.

All of that is to say that we still don't really know Chad Gaudin. But there is a decent chance we'll get to know him better before 2009 is over. Gaudin was the piece that Brian Cashman chose to acquire when he passed on bigger name pitchers at the deadline. In many ways it was astute move; Gaudin has the potential to fill needs in both the bullpen and at the back of the rotation. Now it's time for the Bayou-born and bred Gaudin, who unfortunately does not talk like this, to make that move pay dividends.

Here's The Dude's favorite band....

Wish I was back on the bayou
Rolling with some Cajun queen
Wishing I were a fast freight train
Just a chugging on down to New Orleans

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