At 6’7” and 300 pounds, it’s hard to imagine C.C. Sabathia being overlooked, but that’s exactly what has seemed to happen this season. Despite compiling such an impressive first half, the big lefty has not only failed to garner early Cy Young support, but he was even initially left off the All Star team. However, after yesterday’s 1-0 shutout of the Rays, it might finally be time for everyone to take notice.
Entering the All Star break, Sabathia leads American League pitchers with an fWAR of 4.8, which also ranks second in all of baseball behind only Roy Halladay. His 13 wins are also tops in the majors, while only Justin Verlander has thrown more innings. If the Yankees’ ace maintains the same performance over the second half, he’ll not only put forth the best season of his career, but also one of the most dominant in franchise history.
Top-10 ERA+ Seasons by a Yankees’ Pitcher, Since 1919
Note: Includes all pitchers with at least 200 innings.
If history is any indicator, Sabathia’s best in 2011 might still be yet to come. Over the course of his career, the Yankees’ ace has developed a reputation for being a better second half pitcher: his ERA has been 3.67 before the All Star Game and 3.31 thereafter. In five of the last six seasons, the same trend has also held true. What’s more, based on his recent performance, Sabathia might just be hitting his stride. With Sunday’s complete game shutout, the left hander ended the half with six consecutive victories and a scoreless streak of 24 innings. By just about any measure, he is pitching as well as at any point in his career.
The only drawback to Sabathia’s career year is it increases the likelihood that he’ll exercise the opt-out clause in his current seven-year contract. According to fangraphs.com, the left hander has already provided cumulative value in excess of his $23 million annual salary over the first three years, so it stands to reason that he’ll at least be able to earn an extension at the same yearly rate. If that scenario comes to pass, the Yankees shouldn’t think twice about giving it to him. And, Yankees’ fans shouldn’t fret about the expense. After all, about the only thing the organization can’t afford is being without C.C. Sabathia.