The 10 biggest pitching performances of the 2009 regular season

Joe took a look at the ten biggest hits of the 2009 regular season last week, and I felt it was appropriate to follow up with a post about the most important pitching performances. Unlike big hits, which are singular events that come unexpectedly and can happen at literally any time, big pitching performances are a bit more deliberate. We watch them unfold over several innings and we know exactly who’s delivering it. They lack the excitement and surprise of their batting counterparts, but dominant pitching performances give us a chance to sit back and appreciate what we’re witnessing.

Despite relying on a core of four starters all season long, seven different pitchers managed to crack my list. And let me emphasize that this is my list. These are my ten biggest pitching performances of the 2009 regular season. Chances are you’ll disagree with me, and I encourage you to tell everyone about it in the comments.

I managed to find a picture from each game, so know that they aren’t some meaningless stock photos I came across. They’re all legit. So, without further ado…

10. Chad Gaudin mows down his former team (video)

It was a relatively meaningless September contest because the Yankees were already up nine games in the division, though the team still had no idea who was going to serve as their fourth starter in the postseason. Joba Chamberlain held that title by default, however no one felt comfortable with him given his second half performance. Enter Gaudin, who at the time had a 4.04 ERA and an .808 OPS against since joining the Yanks in August. He had made two starts in pinstripes prior to this one, and they were both pretty much so-so.

Tampa Bay came to town losers of their last six, so all the stars lined up for Gaudin to grab hold of the fifth starter’s spot. He retired 10 of the first 12 batters he faced and took the ball into the 7th inning for the first time in a month and a half. Gaudin’s pitching line was not spectacular  (6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K), but he only needed 76 pitches to record 18 outs. The outing was enough to earn him a rotation spot the rest of the way, and even though the playoff schedule made a fourth starter unnecessary for the Yanks, Gaudin was always on call if needed. It took almost all season, but the last rotation spot was finally settled following Chien-Ming Wang‘s epic meltdown.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, AP

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Fan Confidence Poll: January 25th, 2010

2009 Season Record: 103-59 (915 RS, 753 RA), won AL East by 8 games, finished with the best record in MLB by 6 games, won 27th World Series

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Unconfirmed Report: Yanks inquired about Nelson Cruz

Via Frankie Piliere of AOL FanHouse, the Yankees are exploring trade options for left field, and one player they may have asked about is Rangers’ outfielder Nelson Cruz. Piliere makes it clear that this is an unconfirmed report, so make sure you take it with a big grain of salt. That doesn’t mean we can’t discuss it, though.

The 29-year-old Cruz was an All Star in 2009, his first full season in the majors. He’s got power (33 HR, .264 IsoP in ’09) and he can definitely defend in the corners (19.6 UZR in over 2,200 innings in RF), though his on-base skills are meh at best (87 unintentional walks in 1,125 big league plate appearances) and he had a ridiculous home-road split last year. Cruz is a sexy name that’ll excite people because he hit lots of homers in 2009, but the price will likely outweigh the production. Unless we’re talking a Swisherian type of heist here, I wouldn’t bother.

Here’s the layout of Cruz’s 2009 home runs, all 33 of them, as they would play at Yankee Stadium.

It appears that even had he hit all 33 of those home run balls at Yankee Stadium, they all would have left the yard. Cruz’s average standard home run distance of 413.9 feet ranked fourth in the majors, and his 12 no-doubts ranked fifth in the AL.

Open Thread: NFC Championship Game

BritFarrr vs. Breesus, winner gets the Colts in Miami in two weeks. Chat about the game, or whatever else you want here.

Open Thread: AFC Championship Game

Well look at this. The Jets, who managed to “back into” the Conference Championship Game, are facing the Colts this afternoon for the right to play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. These are the same Colts that granted Big Rex’s team a playoff spot in Week 16 by putting helmets on their cheerleaders in the second half. My, how the turntables have … turned.

(Part of that intro may, or may not have been hyperbole.)

Indianapolis bowled over the Ravens last week while the Jets had to pull a 2009 Yankees and come from behind to beat the Chargers. As always, the Jets are going to rely on the league’s best defense to keep them in the game, while pounding away on the ground offensively to limit the potential mistakes of their rookie quarterback. Revis Island will surely keep Reggie Wayne in check, but it’ll be interesting to see who can handle Dallas Clark inside when Peyton fires off those short, quick passes as he’s being blitzed.

The Jets are going to have to get some big plays on special teams (opponent’s are 0-for-5 on field goal attempts against them this postseason) and avoid the turnover at all costs to have a chance. Rex has talked the talk for weeks, and so far his team has walked the walk. Let’s see if they can do it again this week. Enjoy the game.

Photo Credits: Bill Kostroun, AP

Sunday Links: A-Rod, Farm System, Jack Z.

We’re all just running out the clock until the Jets take the field in Indianapolis, so here’s some links to help you pass the time.

  • Alex Rodriguez received the Babe Ruth Award at the BBWAA Awards Dinner last night, which is given to the player who performed the best in the World Series. “Postseason MVP. Wow,” said A-Rod. “What’s next, the good guy award?” I laughed.
  • Sky Andrecheck at Baseball Analysts examines Baseball America’s prospect rankings through the years, and discovers that yeah, a team’s ranking is a good predictor of future success. Check it out, very interesting stuff.
  • David Laurila at Baseball Prospectus interviewed Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik. It’s free to everyone, and it’s a great look at one of the brightest minds in the game. I highly recommend it.

There’s something about Smoltz

When we heard, over the summer, that the Yankees heavily pursued John Smoltz in the winter of 2001-2002, it wasn’t much of a surprise. After dropping the World Series to the Diamondbacks the team surely wanted to make a splash in 2002, and adding Smoltz to a pitching staff that already included Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, and Andy Pettitte would have done just that. But Smoltz took $23 million less, apparently, to re-sign with the Braves. The next chance the Yankees would get, the winter of 2004-2005, Smoltz again signed with the Braves for a discount. It seemed his ship had sailed.

What did come as a surprise was hearing that the Yankees showed interest in Smoltz this off-season. They were the team, after all, that ended his brief AL stint, inflating his ERA to 8.32 before the Red Sox designated him for assignment. True, he did improve once sent to St. Louis, striking out more than a batter per inning while keeping his walks low. The competition, however, just wasn’t the same. It seemed like the only chance Smoltz had to pitch in 2010 was in the NL. Still does.

In the past, the desire for Smoltz was understandable. He ranked among the best pitchers in the league for many years, at times when the Yankees sought starters. This recent interest, however, seems odd, like they wanted to make up for a past mistake. Or maybe they never really were interested, but the noise just seeped into the media. That makes the most sense to me. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense at all.