Chad Gaudin kinda, sorta, got the job done last night. He didn’t escape the 5th inning and threw a few too many pitchers, but he held the A’s to just one hit. As Sergio Mitre has done, he gave the team a chance to win and has earned himself another look as a starting pitcher.
At this point, you might be asking, “So what?” Gaudin is, after all, just a fill-in for a few weeks. He probably won’t be on the post-season roster and won’t pitch in many of the Yanks’ important games. Yet, Gaudin — and to a lesser extent, Mitre — could have a significant impact on the Yankees’ post-season success for the simple reason that they give the team options and the ability to rest everyone else.
Flashback to the second half of 2008. With the Yanks’ pitching depth on shaky ground, Andy Pettitte needed to throw every five days despite shoulder pains. The results weren’t pretty. In 13 second-half starts, Pettitte was 4-7 with a 5.35 ERA. He allowed 17 more hits than innings pitched, and opponents had a .783 OPS against the Yanks’ lefty. His second-half slide was a big reason why I advocated against re-upping Pettitte for this season.
This year, Pettitte has spun a different tale. After a first half that saw him go 4-4 with a 4.83 ERA, Pettitte has turned it on of late. He is just 1-1, but in 39.2 second-half innings, he has a 2.04 ERA and 43 strike outs. Opponents have just a .543 OPS against him after putting up a .795 mark in the first half.
In a way, Pettitte is the key to the Yanks’ post-season success. While A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia could carry the team, having an effective Pettitte would cement the Yanks’ position as October favorites. To that end, the Yankees have to make sure that Pettitte, at 36 years of age, gets the rest he needs.
After the game last night, Pettitte said as much. “It’s huge,” Pettitte said to the beat writers of Gaudin’s start. “If you can give myself and CC and A.J. a few extra days between now and the end of the season, it’s going to pay off.”
Pettitte isn’t the only one who needs the rest. CC Sabathia has thrown nearly 500 regular season innings over the last two years and is on pace for another 238 this year. A.J. Burnett threw a career-high 221.1 innings last year and is on pace for 205 this year. We all know what the Yanks’ plans are for Joba.
If the Yankees can win a pair of games in Boston this weekend, if Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre can give them a few decent outings, the Yanks can rest Pettitte, Sabathia and Burnett. They can get the team ready for a stretch drive and playoff push that could bring us another parade. While the Yanks have a seven-game lead right now, a bigger one will give them the luxury of rest. Getting to that point may start with Boston this weekend, but Gaudin will have a role to play yet on this team.