Pitching Gaudin could be right move for Yankees
Maybe this settles the issue.
“I’ve got no chance against lefties,” the Yankees’ CC Sabathia said
Friday, talking about his hitting, not his pitching.
Well, the Phillies are starting right-hander Joe Blanton in Game 4 and
lefty Cliff Lee in Game 5, making the decision easy for Yankees
manager Joe Girardi, right?
Uh, not exactly.
Girardi needs to figure out how to deploy Sabathia in his World Series
rotation, not his lineup.
Sabathia will be a lock to start Game 4 on three days’ rest if the
Yankees fall behind the Phillies, two games to one.
He might even be a lock to start if the Yankees win, considering
Chad Gaudin has pitched one inning in the past 28 days.
The latter choice, though, is not as clear-cut as it appears. If the
Yankees led the Series, I’m not sure pitching Gaudin would be the
Since 1999, teams using a starter on three days rest against a fully
rested counterpart in the postseason are 12-35, according to STATS LLC.
Sabathia proved an exception in Game 4 of the American League
Championship Series, dominating the Angels for eight innings.
But this decision would not solely involve Sabathia.
If the Yankees commit to Sabathia in games 4 and 7, if necessary, they
also will be committing to right-hander A.J. Burnett and lefty Andy
Pettitte on short rest in games 5 and 6.
That’s right, the Yankees would close out a potential seven-game
Series with four consecutive starts on short rest — unless Girardi
picked Gaudin for Game 5 and skipped either Burnett or Pettitte, a
If Gaudin started, it would be in Game 4, enabling Girardi to start
Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte on normal rest in the final three
games. Sabathia then would be available in relief for Game 7, the way
Lee will be for the Phillies.
Not so awful, is it?
Again, there is no way Girardi will start Gaudin if the Yankees lose
Game 3 on Saturday and face a potential deficit of three games to one.
Girardi, however, could adopt a different mindset if the Yankees won
Saturday, knowing his worst-case scenario would be a Series tied at
two games each.
“I don’t think that necessarily has too much to do with it, it’s just
physically how the players are doing,” Girardi said Friday when asked
how much the Yankees’ position in the Series would influence his
He quickly backed off, adding: “You know, that does have a little
something to do with it, but it’s just something we want to discuss.”
Burnett, for once, is not a concern — he is 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA in
four career starts on three days’ rest. A high pitch count by Pettitte
in Game 3, however, could play a role in Girardi’s thinking. Pettitte,
37, missed a start in September because of shoulder fatigue.
His career numbers on three days’ rest are decent — 5-6 with a 3.88 ERA
in 15 starts. But he would be moving out of his comfort zone — the
last time Pettitte made a start on three days’ rest was Sept.
Then again, the four innings or so the Yankees get from Pettitte,
the all-time leader in postseason wins, might be better than anything
they get from Gaudin.
Yankees officials rave about Gaudin’s fearlessness and point out
he has developed a changeup to better counter left-handed hitters.
Still, Gaudin’s statistics against lefties do not reflect much
progress, and three of the Phillies’ best hitters — Chase Utley, Ryan
Howard and Raul Ibanez — are left-handed.
Perhaps Gaudin could last 75 to 80 pitches, backed by right-hander
Joba Chamberlain, who could work two or three innings in relief.
Girardi, regardless of what he decides, will need to use his bullpen
heavily at least once, either behind Gaudin in Game 4 or Pettitte in
Game 6. Why not do it earlier in the Series and try to beat Blanton
in a 10-7 slugfest?
The reason, ultimately, might come down to fear — the second-guessing
of Girardi would reach near-hysterical levels if the Yankees lost
after holding back Sabathia. Better the team should lose with proven
pitchers than a journeyman such as Gaudin.
Girardi, though, is not one to follow convention, particularly when
the statistics in his binders suggest an alternate path. A victory in
Game 3, and he might be swayed by the numbers that show how badly
recent postseason teams have fared using starters on three days’ rest.
Few would think he was right.
I’m not sure he would be wrong.