With their fifth starter spot still something of a question mark, the Yankees added some more depth yesterday by acquiring Chad Gaudin from the Padres. It’s hard to believe the well traveled Gaudin is only 26 years of age, as the Yankees will mark his sixth different franchise in the last seven years. That kind of journeyman status is usually only achieved by 35 year old lefty specialists, but Gaudin has shown enough at times to keep getting jobs but never enough to convince his employer to keep him around.
For the Yankees, he’s a nice addition, though. Don’t be swayed by his ERA in the National League, which is driven by a high BABIP and a low LOB%, neither of which are particularly good predictors of future performance. Gaudin has a solid fastball/slider combination and is extremely tough on right-handed hitters. Unfortunately, his change-up kind of sucks, so lefties give him serious problems, which is why he’s never been able to hold down a job as a starting pitcher.
Seriously, check out his career splits:
Vs RHB: 8.3% BB%, 23.8% K%
Vs LHB: 13.2% BB%, 10.8% K%
Against right-handers, he’s terrific, using his slider to generate a ton of swinging strikes, which puts him ahead in the count and gives him a real out pitch. Against lefties, the slider doesn’t work, so he just nibbles the corners and ends up walking everyone. He does a good enough job of pitching away from the strike zone that lefties don’t light him up when they make contact, but by living on the edges, he ends up as a high-walk, pitch-to-contact guy.
In reality, he’s best suited to relief work, where his problems against LHPs can be minimized, but he’s got enough endurance to start, which is why teams keep running him out there as a member of their rotation. The Yankees have said he’ll start off in their bullpen, though he might transition to the 5th starter job if Sergio Mitre keeps struggling.
Whatever role he ends up filling over the last two months, he’s certainly going to be a reliever in October if he makes the playoff roster, and he could be a pretty good one if the Yankees use right. As a right-handed specialist, he could be a real asset out of the pen. Look at him as Jeff Nelson 2.0, and use him accordingly, and New York will have added a nice piece. If they continue to force him to face lefties, though, it won’t be as pretty.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.