Tom Boorstien of SNY has a new piece up discussing how CC Sabathia has not been the pitcher he was before signing here. He writes:
The Yankees will probably never see Sabathia reprise his 2008 performance. He had career-bests in innings pitched, strikeouts, strikeouts per nine innings and ERA+. He also made 17 starts in the Pacific Coast League National League. Even if the competition there is identical to that in the American League—which it isn’t—Sabathia still got to face the pitcher multiple times a game.
So why is Sabathia performing more like a good No. 2 starter than a man deserving a $161 million contract? Look at his Three True Outcomes: strikeouts, walks and home runs. Sabathia is underperforming in strikeouts and walks, and his home run rate is dead even to last year.
The walks and strikeouts are the most disconcerting. Sabathia is walking 2.6 batters per nine innings (up from 2.1 and his highest since 2005) and only striking out 6.5 (down from 8.9 and his lowest since 2003). His strikeout to walk ratio is 2.51, a steep dropoff from the 4.25 he posted in 2008 and the 5.65 mark that led the league in 2007, his Cy Young season.
Sabathia’s 3.67 ERA isn’t killing the Yankees, but it’s neither unlucky nor in line with how good the lefty has been in the past. Sabathia’s fielding-independent ERA is an almost-identical 3.61. That stat, too, is his highest since 2005.
Steven Goldman of Pinstriped Bible chimes in as well, wondering if Yankee stadium has anything to do with this. One teensy weensy problem with all this Sabathia concern. It’s not an apples to apples comparison. We’re comparing his first half stats to career rates, and CC has always been a 2nd half pitcher. Check this out:
Those are his 3 year splits from ESPN, so we’re not just looking at the AL/NL switch from 08. He improves in every area in the 2nd half, and his 3.60 ERA is almost identical to the 3.67 mark Boorstein finds disconcerting. His walk rates went from 2.025/9IP pre-All Star to 1.79/9IP post All Star in those seasons, so he’s only up by roughly 1/2 a walk per 9IP, and should improve in the 2nd half. His Strikeouts went from 8.43/9IP pre All Star to 8.97/9IP post All Star in those seasons, so the 6.5 rate he’s putting up so far this year is a significant dropoff. I’ll buy Goldman’s explanation for this, that it can simply be the adjustment of pitching in the new Yankee Stadium. I’ll presume that after the early season HR barrage in April and May, he’s likely throwing more 2-seamers to get more groundballs and keep the ball in the yard, as opposed to throwing 4 seamers that yield strikeouts. We’ve seen the Yanks admit to this with Joba Chamberlain, so it’s reasonable to assume other pitchers are doing the same. In any case, it doesn’t appear to be anything to worry about.
To be fair to Boorstein, he does mention the 1st half/2nd half splits as a possible explanation earlier in his piece and isn’t overly alarmed at CC’s season to date. But I’ve heard similar concerns from fans recently and wanted to address them. As long as he’s healthy, the best should be yet to come for Carsten Charles.
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