If you ask most Yankee fans about Chad Gaudin, who now pitches for the San Francisco Giants, most would shiver. And yet, he was not that particularly bad for the Yankees. And the Yankees were just one of the teams for which Chad Gaudin has pitched. He has long been one of those fringe Major League players that you do not think much about unless he is pitching for your team. But suddenly, he has become one of the Giants' most reliable starters. How did that happen?
As I said, unless he was pitching for your team, you would hardly ever think about Chad Gaudin. As such, there would be little reason to check out his player pages on Baseball-reference.com and Fangraphs.com. But this little hot streak of his, where he has given up just two earned runs in his last 23+ innings, has forced a lot of people like me to look at his pages. And once you do so, it is full of surprises.
The first of which is that he is only thirty years old. The guy has seemed to be around forever. And in some ways, he has. He has pitched in parts of eleven different seasons. He has pitched for nine different teams. He pitched for multiple teams in a season three times in his career. You would think a guy like that would be 36 years old or something. But he is not. He is thirty. That is the first surprise.
The next one is that he made his Major League debut for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays back in 2003 when he was twenty years old. That would make you think that he was a high draft pick by the Rays. He was not. He was selected right out of high school in the 34th round. So we have a kid who was drafted way down on the draft board who pitched well in A-ball and then the next year pitched well in A-ball again and then Double-A and was in the Major Leagues for Tampa to make his debut on August 1, 2003.
Not only is that surprising, but he stayed with the club for the remainder of the season. And he was successful with a 2-0 record for a team that lost 99 games with a 3.60 ERA good for a 123 ERA+. His second win was against a powerhouse Red Sox team on September 27, 2003 as the Red Sox were heading into a showdown against the Yankees.
He started the following season with the Devil Rays in 2004 and was not as successful. He stayed with the team until late June and then was sent to Triple-A and then would be called up again in September. Gaudin pitched mostly in relief and it was not a real good season. But he was 21.
After the 2004 season, he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Kevin Cash. The Devil Rays must not have thought much about Gaudin because Cash, a journeyman catcher, had played three years for the Blue Jays and had compiled a .485 OPS.
Gaudin made only five appearances for the Blue Jays in 2005 and they went horribly. He spent most of the season in the minors.
At the end of that season, the Blue Jays traded him for the dreaded "player to be named later" to the Oakland A's. It was his two and a half years in Oakland that probably made Gaudin a commodity that would intrigue teams to this day. He had a very stable and productive run for the A's.
In 2006, Gaudin was a staple of the A's bullpen and made 53 appearances. He even had his only two saves of his career and finished with a 3.09 ERA.
The following season, Gaudin was installed in the A's rotation and he did not have a great season, but it was decent enough to tie for the league lead in games started with 34. That was a disfunctional A's team in 2007 that lost 86 games and Gaudin went 11-13.
In 2008, Gaudin was off to a good start and had a 5-3 record with the A's in five starts and twenty relief appearances with a 3.59 ERA. But he was traded to the Cubs on July 9th along with Rich Hardin for a package that netted the A's Josh Donaldson among others.
Gaudin's time in Chicago was abysmal and they released him after the season.
Then it gets a little crazy for Gaudin. Here is a rundown:
- Released by the Cubs on April 5, 2009
- Signed with the Padres on April 12, 2009
- Sold by the Padres to the Yankees on August 7, 2009
- Released by the Yankees on March 25, 2010
- Signed by the Oakland A's on March 28, 2010
- Released by the A's on May 21, 2010
- Signed by the Yankees on May 26, 2010
- Granted Free Agency on November 2, 2010
- Signed by the Nationals on December 17, 2010
- Released by the Nationals on July 21, 2011
- Signed by Blue Jays on August 5, 2011
- Granted Free Agency on November 2, 2011
- Signed by the Marlins on January 4, 2012
- Granted Free Agency on October 29, 2012
- Signed by the Giants on December 13, 2012
Whew! That is a whirlwind! But it has all worked out as things are going really well with the Giants. As someone who picks games every day, I have a hard time accepting that he has been this good. But there it is.
In 71 innings, he has a 2.15 ERA and a 3.02 FIP. He has only given up 6.7 hits per nine innings and has a WHIP of 1.070. He has a higher fWAR this season than Matt Cain and Barry Zito combined. Who would have predicted that being the case?
So is this voodoo? Is it a fluke? It might be. If you look at all his peripherals, they all look very similar to the rest of his career. His O-swing, ground ball to fly ball ratio, swinging strike percentage and others are all very similar to what he has done for his career.
The only two glaring differences this season are both what seem to fall in the fluke category. His home runs per nine rate is way down off of his career average and that might be a ball park factor not only pitching at home, but also in some spacious away parks.
The other glaring difference is his hits per nine innings pitched. And that may be summed up by his BABIP, which currently sits at .253. He is a ground ball / fly ball neutral pitcher. And the Giants are not exactly a great fielding team. They are sixth from the bottom in defensive efficiency. So is it just luck then?
Perhaps it is just my perception of the guy as a pitcher. But it does seem to me that a slip to his mean is impending. The Giants have caught a little bit of lightning in a bottle with Chad Gaudin's first 71 innings with the team. Either way, he has had an interesting career and eleven seasons for a guy with middle-of-the-road stuff is a good run. And at the still young age of 30, he could have plenty of middle-of-the-road seasons to come.