It’s still early in the 2015 MLB season, but some players’ years are already starting to take shape. The shape of the pitcher I’m focusing on today, CC Sabathia, has been debated and ballyhooed in the past. He slimmed down for last year and couldn’t pitch a full season after having the worst ERA of his career in 2013 (4.78), but he looks a lot like his old self now and in more ways than one.
As I noted in a post at BP Bronx after CC Sabathia’s second start, despite his high ERA the big man seemed to be pitching pretty well and was just getting unlucky with poor results. His ERA was 5.68, but his FIP was just 1.90 due to a 15-to-4 K:BB ratio and just one home run allowed. His .389 BABIP against, .288 AVG against, and 48 percent strand rate all pointed to bad luck, and Sabathia proved that hypothesis correct, at least for one more night, as he continued to keep the ball down and on the corners.
Sabathia cruised through the first six innings against the Tigers last night. Despite allowing four baserunners to that point, he had still only faced the minimum number of batters because his defense turned three double plays behind him and he picked off a runner. In all, he totaled eight innings, seven hits, three walks, two earned runs, and five strikeouts against the vaunted Detroit lineup. Ultimately, the Yankees might’ve left Sabathia in the game a little too long despite his low pitch count. If the Yankees had a one-run lead after the seventh inning instead of a deficit, it’s likely that manager Joe Girardi would have turned the game over to the back end of the bullpen. Still, it’s encouraging that his manager has confidence in him to pitch deep into games, which is something Sabathia was known for prior to 2014.
Through three starts now, Sabathia’s ERA is 4.35, so it’s likely that you could still trade for him without losing an arm and a leg. Trading for him might be a good idea (2.28 FIP) as for the moment he has a 24.3 percent strikeout rate, four percent walk rate, and just that one gopher ball. It’s also worth noting that his starts have come against good offenses in Toronto, Baltimore, and Detroit. While it’s still a little early to declare that the old CC is back for good, he certainly looks better at this point than two other starters who showed up to spring training throwing harder, Zach McAllister and Kyle Gibson. McAllister lost his spot in the rotation almost immediately and Gibson has struck out only three of the 73 batters he’s faced this year. While velocity is key for any pitcher, Sabathia doesn’t rely on it too heavily, and the bounce back has seemingly played up his entire arsenal to date.
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