Every time Chad Gaudin and Joba Chamberalin take the mound this month, they are auditioning for the Yankees. They aren’t really trying out for much beyond two post-season starts, but these outings constitute auditions nonetheless. After two solid outings from both pitchers over the last four games, the Yanks’ fourth starter picture remains cloudy.
Joba, as we know, has been bad. After three strong starts to begin the season’s second half, he is now 5-4 with a 5.37 ERA after the All-Star Break. In 63.2 innings, he has given up 30 walks and 63 hits while striking out 51.
After a series of horrendous outings in late August and early September, Joba seemed to turn it around on Friday when he went 6 innings in a win. He allowed three earned runs on five hits while walking just one and striking out five. More important, however, was Joba’s opponent, as he seemingly broke out of his slump against the Red Sox, a potential ALCS enemy of the Yanks.
Meanwhile, Chad Gaudin has been more than serviceable as the team’s fifth starter since coming to the Yanks. He has made six starts and has thrown 32 innings. While Joe Girardi has kept him on a short leash, Gaudin hasn’t lost as a Yankee starter and owns a win. In those innings, he has given up 28 hits and 15 walks while striking out 23. His ERA as a Yankee starter is 3.09.
Yesterday, Gaudin did what he had to do in his audition. Against a weak Royals team, he went 6.2 innings and gave up a pair of runs on four hits, two walks and five strikeouts. He threw 57 of 92 pitches for strikes and generally coasted through the game.
In one sense, this past weekend did nothing to illuminate the Yanks’ pitching plans going forward. As soon as Detroit or the Twins clinch the Central, the Yanks will opt for the longer ALDS, and the fourth starter issue won’t come to a head unless and until the Yanks reach the American League Championship Series. Even then, we’ve burned a lot of pixels arguing over which pitcher stands to make two or perhaps three postseason starts.
Yet, in a way, this issue is important for Joba Chamberlain. If the Yanks are confident in Joba’s abilities and his arm strength, they will give him the ball. He has, after all, been the fourth starter for the entire 2009 season. He has stayed healthy and has generally given the Yanks a chance to win games. After all, the Yanks are 20-10 in his games. But the Bombers are undefeated in Gaudin’s six starts, and the team won’t overlook that fact either.
Right now, I have no answer, and when we have no answer, we do what bloggers do best: We poll the audience. So as we count down the hours until tonight’s Yankee game, riddle me this one. I voted for Joba, but I don’t think the Yanks could make a wrong choice here.