Sunday, April 29, 2012

Chad Gaudin and Platoon Splits

As an A’s fan I have a somewhat illogical relationship with Chad Gaudin. In 2006 Gaudin produced a 3.09 ERA in 55 relief innings for a division winning team. In 2007 he transitioned to the rotation, and threw 199.1 moderately effective innings. In one way he was a symbol of the A’s preternatural ability to find useful talent virtually anywhere. One the other hand he was a poster child of the pervasive mediocrity that was quickly overtaking the franchise.

            After he was traded to the Cubs in the summer of 2008, I lost track of Gaudin. I have vague recollections of his horrifying beard pitching for the Yankees, and I have a terrible dream of him pitching 17 awful innings for the A’s in 2010, but after his banishment back to the Yankees I have no memory of where he ended up.

   informs me that he got into 10 games for the Nationals and bounced through the Blue Jays Triple-A team last year, but I can presumably be forgiven for having missed that eventuality. He is currently a relief pitcher for the Ozzie Guillen conducted (not led, conducted) Florida Marlins. At any rate, Gaudin’s pitching history is not the purpose of this post. For as mediocre as Gaudin has been, as detailed by two admittedly outdated articles from Fangraphs,

“Chad Gaudin kills righties and makes perfect sense coming out of any team’s bullpen.”

            The statistics more than bear out R.J. Anderson’s 2010 endorsement of Gaudin’s skills. Gaudin strikes out 8.98 right-handers per nine innings pitched, (which isn’t far off Sandy Koufax’s strikeout rate during his otherworldly 1963-64 seasons) while walking an acceptable 3.27 batters per 9.

            Against left-handers, however, he musters up only 4.84 K/9 while walking a truly awful 5.39 batters per 9 (a rate that isn’t far off from Koufax’s walk rates while he was still figuring it out and hurled every other pitch over the backstop).

            While it would be somewhat insulting to the great man to compare Gaudin to Kaufax, suffice it to say that when he faces right-handed batters Gaudin strikes them out like a poor man’s version of vintage Cy Young Kaufax, and when he faces left-handed batters Gaudin walks them like vintage scare-the-batter-in-the-on-deck-circle Kaufax.

            This is not a particularly difficult set of statistics to decipher, which makes Ozzie Guillen’s decision to bring Gaudin into the game in the ninth inning of what turned out to be a 5-0 loss to the Diamondbacks on Friday particularly indefensible. Understandably, the departing pitcher, the eminently capable Ryan Webb, was commanded to intentionally walk the left-handed hitting Jason Kubel. What is worth mentioning is that the next hitter, Miguel Montero, is a left-handed hitter who had to that date produced an .820 On base plus slugging percentage against right-handed pitchers.

            Predictably, Montero smashed a double off of Gaudin, plating the two runners who were on base. While the double only dropped the Marlins’ chances of winning the game from 2.4% to .4%, it was caused by an easily preventable managerial mistake.

            The dictum is simple, Gaudin should not be facing left-handed hitters. When this dictum is followed, he can be a useful piece on a good team. When it is not, he gives up smash doubles to the leftfield gap.

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