When Ryan Vogelsong went down with a broken finger on May 20, things looked grim for the San Francisco Giants‘ starting rotation. However, it is now looking like the injury may have been a bit of a blessing in disguise for the Giants, as Chad Gaudin, who has primarily filled Vogelsong’s spot, has become the team’s most consistent starter.
At the time of Vogelsong’s injury, there was debate as to whether it was sensible to move Gaudin into a starting role, considering that he had been so valuable as a reliever, filling roles ranging from long relief to setup situations. However, the team’s hand was forced following rookie Michael Kickham‘s disastrous start in Oakland on May 28, and they decided to move the 30-year-old Gaudin into the rotation.
Gaudin, an undersized righthander who has flipped between starting and relieving during his 11-year MLB career, has been nothing less than spectacular since his first start on June 2 in St. Louis. He was particularly effective during his start Friday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks, throwing seven shutout innings while striking out eight and failing to walk a batter.
Gaudin has only allowed more than two runs in one of his six starts. The only aspect of Gaudin’s pitching which could be construed as a negative has been his lack of endurance; Friday marked only the second time he has stretched beyond six innings. He’s made up for it with his consistency, however, having a WHIP of 0.94 as a starter.
It’s been a career season for Gaudin, who has not had an ERA under 4.00 since 2006. It’s certainly got to be more than the Giants were expecting, seeing as they gave him a minor league deal with a chance to compete for a roster spot in spring training. With this fantastic performance, the Giants will soon face a decision with Vogelsong expected to come off the DL in early August. Gaudin’s effectiveness, combined with the diminished need for him in the bullpen considering the good performance of young righties Sandy Rosario and Jake Dunning and the reputation of setup man Santiago Casilla, should allow him to stick in the rotation following Vogelsong’s return.
It should be interesting to see how the Giants address the situation. Assuming all the starters stay healthy, the most logical option for a move to the bullpen would be Barry Zito. While he has been dominant at home, possessing a 4-1 record with a 2.45 ERA, he has been atrocious on the road, having no wins and six losses with a 9.89 ERA. It’s possible the Giants could adopt some sort of modified six-man rotation as well, perhaps allowing Zito to start in home games only. Though it may be detrimental to a potential playoff run, it would be great for starters Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, who threw for the whole month of October last year and have gotten no breaks in 2013.
Another option could be moving Tim Lincecum to the bullpen, though his recent effectiveness and the no-hitter he threw in his previous start make that option much less likely. They will probably use the remaining part of the season to determine his future as a starter and decide if he is worth re-signing next year. Whatever the decision is, it will be intriguing to see how Gaudin finishes up, and if he can re-invent himself after seeming to be an emergency starter or back-of-the-bullpen guy coming into this year.