On July 17th, I wondered about CC Sabathia’s declining strikeout rate, for it seemed like a significant problem. On that day, his K/9 was 6.66, a far cry from the 7.80 K/9 CC put up in 2007 and the NL-heavy 8.93 he put up in 2008. There wasn’t much of an explanation for the issue, although it seems as though a mechanical flaw combined with a “getting to know you” period with the Yankee catchers could have been the cause. Whatever the reason was, CC Sabathia’s K/9 is no longer an issue.
Over the past 30 days, CC has logged 43 innings while striking out 45 batters. His K/9 during that time is 9.42, which is good for 5th best in the AL amongst starters. With each dominant start—and believe me, in August, he’s had a bunch of them—the 6.66 that I wrote about a month ago appears to be a distant memory. After his 8 K performance against Boston last night, CC’s current K/9 is now a healthy 7.19. It’s not the highest we’ve seen from him, but it’s definitely climbing and doing so consistently. He could certainly approach the rate we saw in 2007 if his post-break performance continues to be this good. On top of CC’s increase in K’s, he’s also not walking anyone anymore (1.47 BB/9 over said time frame) and his K/BB is 6.43.
While these numbers indicate that CC has been dominating the competition lately—K’s and BB’s are the main elements controlled by a pitcher—the K/9 stat is especially important to the fans. CC was signed to be the Yankees’ ace. Most fans possess a particular perception of an ace and it tends to be the big strikeout guy. It’s why Chien-Ming Wang never really got the credit that he deserved. Though CC was pitching well for most of the season, he wasn’t striking out as many batters as he had done in previous years. Right now he looks like the pitcher the Yankees signed last winter. He looks like an ace and is proving that with each strikeout, therefore, his rising K/9 is very important. At the end of the year, when fans are asked to evaluate his first season in NY, it’ll be one of the elements they tacitly look to in order to come up with their assessment (rings will be important too, of course).
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