Giants Salvage A Game Behind Gaudin: Analysis


June 2, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Chad Gaudin (57) throws to a St. Louis Cardinals batter during the first inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants had the beef of their rotation lined up on Saturday–Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. They combined to surrender 12 runs, and predictably, the Giants lost the day-night doubleheader in ugly fashion.

What wasn’t in the forecast was Chad Gaudin, making his first start since September 28, 2009, being the superior Giants starting pitcher this weekend.

That’s exactly what he was on Sunday. He avoided a jam in the third inning (Cain and Bumgarner gave up 10 combined runs in the third on Saturday), and pitched six innings of two-run ball, allowing only four hits while striking out five against no walks.

Gaudin’s only blemish came in the fourth inning when David Freese golfed his sinker into the left center field bleachers, which made the score 2-2. The Giants struck first on Gregor Blanco’s double-play ball, and they struck again on Hunter Pence’s drive off the base of the center field wall to drive in Buster Posey, who recorded his sixth career 4-for-4 game.

Otherwise, Gaudin did exactly what Cain and Bumgarner couldn’t, which was, of course, avoiding the big inning.

Being a relief pitcher, Gaudin’s arsenal isn’t extremely extensive outside of your basic pitches. His days as a starter–he’s made 75 career starts–gave him something to lean on, though.

According to Brooks Baseball, he threw 42 four-seamers and 22 sinkers. So, 64 pitches of the “fastball group.” Both pitches leveled out at 93, sometimes touching 94 on the stadium gun. Brooks Baseball had him throwing a shade higher.

Gaudin commanded the corners and kept the ball low, which was critical because his fastball and sinker weren’t drawing slews of whiffs. Per Brooks Baseball, he recorded six whiffs–three with his four-seamer and three with his sinker. That suggests that his stuff wasn’t great, but location is as equally as important, and he had that covered.

Gaudin’s efficiency was a fresh breath of air for manager Bruce Bochy. He threw 17 of 22 first-pitch strikes, and he did not use more than 16 pitches in a single inning. This naturally set him on course to log six innings while needing just 79 pitches.

June 2, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Andres Torres (56) congratulates shortstop Brandon Crawford (35) and left fielder Gregor Blanco (7) after they scored on a double by Brandon Belt (not pictured) during the seventh inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. San Francisco defeated St. Louis 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Before the game, Bochy told reporters that Gaudin would be held at about 80 pitches, give or take a few. So, five innings would’ve pleased the manager, but the veteran went above and beyond. He probably could’ve gone deeper.

After the first time through (around the fourth inning), the Cardinals began to swing earlier in the count. This was probably a reaction to Gaudin’s fastball command, as he maintained a strike percentage north of 71 in each of his first three innings of work.

St.Louis’s adjustment was fairly clear: In the fourth, Allen Craig singled on the first pitch he saw, Matt Adams singled on the second pitch and Freese homered on the first pitch he saw. In the fifth, Pete Kozma lined out to center on the first pitch and Matt Carpenter softly flew out on the second pitch. Still, pounding the zone, Tony Cruz and Craig both fouled off the first pitches they saw in the sixth.

For his admirable efforts, Gaudin, who earned his first win as a starter since September 28, 2009, not only garnered praise after the game, but he’s almost a lock to start a week from today against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Gaudin owes Brandon Belt dinner, as his two-run double in the seventh broke the 2-2 tie and put Gaudin in line for a win. Perhaps the most impressive part of Belt’s double was the fact that it was off Randy Choate, a tough lefty reliever, who has held lefties to just a .201 average in his eight years of major league service time.

Since Gaudin went deeper into the game than initially projected, Tim Lincecum, who was reportedly available out of the bullpen, wasn’t needed. Instead, Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo logged two scoreless innings.