Almost three weeks after suffering his fourth straight defeat against Boston, CC Sabathia delivered in kind on Tuesday night, throwing a season-high 128 pitches over six innings, striking out 10 and limiting the Red Sox to only two runs.
Following his messy August 6 start I took an in-depth look at the way he’d been pitching Boston on the season, and came away with several conclusions, one being that he didn’t appear to be challenging the Sox with his fastball as much as he might ordinarily be doing, throwing it for strikes less frequently than his season average while also somewhat abandoning his secondary stuff. So I was certainly curious as to whether he might change his approach at all.
Here’s an updated table of Sabathia’s five 2011 outings against the Red Sox (along with his averages for the entire 2011 season):
Well, he didn’t exactly mix the secondary stuff back in last night, throwing his changeup (7.8%) and sinker (5.5%) even less frequently than in any previous start against Boston.
However, the decision to favor his fastball a season-high (among this five-start data set) 63.3% of the time surely paid off, as his blazingly fast (avg. spd. 95mph on Tuesday) heater went for strikes more frequently than his season average, generated a five-start-high Whiff% and a five-start-low In Play%. It also appears to have been his second-fastest fastball of the season.
The effectiveness of the four-seamer also showed up in Sabathia’s batted ball results:
Last night righties hit the four-seamer on the ground nearly 90% of the time they put the ball in play (up from 50% on August 6), while lefties did so 50% of the time (up from 20% on August 6). The FB% for righties on the four-seamer fell from 50% on August 6 to 12.5% last night, and for lefties from 60% to 0%. Granted, we are talking about very small sample sizes here, but the results are still encouraging, especially considering that Boston’s lefty-laden lineup hadn’t seemed to have all that much trouble with CC’s four-seamer in the previous four contests.
In fact, Sabathia’s only yielded five home runs to lefthanders all season, and three of those five have been to Red Sox — Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford. No Red Sox righthanded hitter has taken Sabathia deep yet in 2011.
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