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Posts Tagged ‘CC Sabathia’

As the baseball Hot Stove slowly builds from early embers, the Captain’s Blog will be busy identifying the top pitching targets the Yankees should consider pursuing in a trade. In part one, a game plan to acquire Felix Hernandez was devised. Admittedly, such an acquisition probably falls more under the heading of wishful thinking than a wish list, so just in case that advice proves unsuccessful, one of two backup plans is now presented.

Because of the short porch at Yankee Stadium, left handed pitching has always been a coveted commodity in the Bronx. That’s why last year’s blueprint revolved around the acquisition of Cliff Lee and return of Andy Pettitte. However, when both lefties decided against pitching in pinstripes, it left the Yankees with CC Sabathia as the team’s lone southpaw. As a result, the Yankees ended the 2011 season with only 33 starts by a left hander, one of the lowest totals in franchise history.

Games Started by Yankees’ Left Handers, Since 1919

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Three of the most prominent free agent pitchers (C.J. Wilson, Yu Darvish, and Mark Buehrle) are left handed, so if the Yankees decide to enter the market, they should be able to find a complement for Sabathia. In addition, several lefties may also be available on the trade market. Two of the more attractive options are presented below.

Top Left Handed Starters, Ranked by WAR: 2010-2011

Player WAR W L IP ERA ERA+
CC Sabathia 11.9 40 15 475 3.09 141
Clayton Kershaw 11.4 34 15 437.2 2.57 147
Cliff Lee 11.1 29 17 445 2.77 144
Cole Hamels 10.2 26 20 424.2 2.92 135
Jon Lester 9.8 34 18 399.2 3.36 128
C.J. Wilson 9.4 31 15 427.1 3.14 140
Gio Gonzalez 9.2 31 21 402.2 3.17 129
Ricky Romero 9.1 29 20 435 3.31 127
David Price 9 31 19 433 3.12 123
Mark Buehrle 7.2 26 22 415.2 3.94 109
John Danks 6.9 23 23 383.1 3.99 108
Ted Lilly 5.5 22 26 386.1 3.8 104

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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CC Sabathia surprised all of baseball by doing exactly what everyone suspected he would: sign an extension to remain with the New York Yankees.

Sabathia will be roaring in pinstripes for at least five more years. (Photo: Getty Images)

Although there was little doubt Sabathia would remain in pinstripes, conventional wisdom suggested the big left hander would first opt out of his current deal before returning to the Bronx. Instead of allowing it to get that far, however, GM Brian Cashman set about hammering out a contract extension that could add as many as two more years to the four remaining on Sabathia’s existing deal.

In some ways, the Yankees’ preemptive strike is both a validation and repudiation of arguments advanced on both sides of the Sabathia opt out debate. While some will portray the left hander’s decision as proof of his often-stated desire to end his career in pinstripes, others will likely treat the extension as a de facto opt out. When you really think about it, both interpretations have merit. Because Sabathia decided to eschew free agency, it seems as if his preference was for pitching in New York. However, his loyalty did come at a price, which isn’t to suggest dishonesty of any sort. Rather, Sabathia leveraged both his contractual rights and superior performance over the last three years into a well deserved extension.

Would Sabathia have opted out without an extension? And, if so, what kind of offers would he have received on the open market? It would have been interesting to find out the answers to those questions, but both he and the Yankees did well to leave them unaddressed.

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The first game of the ALDS between the Yankees and Tigers was supposed to be a battle of aces, but Mother Nature took center stage instead. With only 1 1/2 innings completed, the skies opened up and washed away the much anticipated showdown between CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander, leaving the two Cy Young candidates on the sidelines and their teams scrambling to rebuild the rotation around them.

Friday’s rain storm derailed a potential classic showdown between C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander (Photo: Getty Images).

Following the initial disappointment, most of the focus has been on which team, if any, will benefit from the postponement. Because the suspension all but ensures the Yankees will have to enlist A.J. Burnett in one of the five games, the obvious advantage seems to lie with the Tigers. However, Detroit’s best hope was believed to be Justin Verlander, who will now only pitch in one game if Jim Leyland’s plan to bring him back on Monday holds true. What’s more, because the game was suspended, not canceled, the Tigers are locked into a right-handed lineup against Ivan Nova. As a result, Magglio Ordonez and Brandon Inge (wOBA of .262 and .203) will be facing a right hander, instead of Brennan Boesch and Wilson Betemit  (wOBA of .352 and .396).

There really isn’t much point to focusing on which team “won the rain out”. As both managers stressed after the game, nothing can be done about the weather. The Yankees, who experienced 23 rain delays during the regular season, learned that the hard way in 2011. So, instead of worrying about who has the advantage, both teams would be better served planning for the rest of the series, provided the weather permits it to be played.

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Before the Yankees’ adopted a six-man rotation at the end of July, the team’s starters had posted one of the lowest combined ERAs in the league. Since then, however, the Yankees’ rotation has ranked 9th in the league with a 4.85 ERA. Coincidence or correlation?

When Joe Girardi first decided to expand the rotation to six, it was presented as a temporary solution to the Yankees’ glut of starters. In reality, however, it was really a structure designed to keep the struggling A.J. Burnett in a starting role. Six weeks later, not only has Burnett continued to weigh on the team, but now it seems as if the efforts made to accommodate the erratic righty have brought the rest of the staff down with him.

Yankees’ Starters ERA vs. American League, by Defined Period (click to enlarge)


Note: Yankees began using six-man on July 30; August 1 used for comparison to league because of ease of calculation.
Source: fangraphs.com

Luckily, the Yankees’ offense produced at season-high levels during August and early September. As a result, the team’s winning percentage has actually been higher since the Yankees’ adopted the six-man rotation (.614 vs. .600). However, the end doesn’t justify the means. Not only could the Yankees have won even more games during this period, but the team now finds itself with a rotation in flux only two weeks before the start of the post season. The six-man rotation may have been designed to accomplish something, but it’s hard to figure out exactly what.

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Even though the value of wins has been somewhat discredited by the modern focus on sabermetrics, amassing 20 victories in one season remains a notable milestone for a starting pitcher.

Since 1901, 476 different pitchers have started at least one game for the Yankees, but only 35 have made it to the 20-win mark. Included among that group is CC Sabathia, who recorded 21 victories in 2010. Apparently not content with one such season, the Yankees’ ace has been at it again in 2011. As a result, the big lefty takes the mound tonight with the chance to make it back-to-back years with 20 victories.

Multiple 20-Win Seasons by Yankees’ Starters

Pitcher Seasons   Pitcher Seasons
Bob Shawkey 4   Carl Mays 2
Lefty Gomez 4   Herb Pennock 2
Red Ruffing 4   Russ Ford 2
Vic Raschi 3   Spud Chandler 2
Jack Chesbro 3   Tommy John 2
Mel Stottlemyre 3   Waite Hoyt 2
Ron Guidry 3   Whitey Ford 2
Andy Pettitte 2   CC Sabathia ?

Source: Baseball-reference.com

The Yankees have had 15 different pitchers win 20 games in at least two seasons, so if Sabathia is able to notch a victory in one of his final three starts, he’ll join a list that includes Hall of Famers like Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez, and Whitey Ford. What’s more, by winning 20 games in consecutive seasons, Sabathia would become a member of even more select fraternity that includes only 10 pinstriped hurlers.

Consecutive 20-Win Seasons by Yankees’ Starters

    Combined Totals
Pitcher Years IP W SO ERA WHIP
Jack Chesbro 1903-1904 779 1/3 62 386 2.22 1.027
Russ Ford 1910-1911 581    48 367 1.95 1.017
Bob Shawkey 1919-1920 529    40 248 2.59 1.212
Carl Mays 1920-1921 648 2/3 53 162 3.05 1.236
Waite Hoyt 1927-1928 529 1/3 45 153 3.01 1.200
Lefty Gomez 1931-1932 508 1/3 45 326 3.47 1.302
Red Ruffing 1936-1939 1008    82 455 3.29 1.278
Vic Raschi 1949-1951 789 2/3 63 443 3.53 1.354
Mel Stottlemyre 1968-1969 581 2/3 41 253 2.65 1.155
Tommy John 1979-1980 541 2/3 43 189 3.19 1.217

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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For one week, Yankees Universe has become Bizzaro World. Once home to an infallible closer and dominant left handed ace, Yankee Stadium now features impostors who give up home runs at an alarming pace. Apparently, the rest of the American League has found the Yankees’ kryptonite.

The Yankees harrowing week started with a rare string of three straight games in which Mariano Rivera surrendered an earned run, a span that encompassed two blown saves and home runs allowed in consecutive appearances. As if Yankees’ fans weren’t busy enough fretting about the worry-free Rivera, last night provided another head scratching development.

One start after losing to Boston for the fourth time this season, all expectations were for CC Sabathia to continue his dominance against the rest of the American League. The Tampa Rays, however, had other ideas, and they used the long ball to express to them. When Sabathia’s outing was concluded, the big lefty had surrendered five home runs (including two hit by left handed batters), which was not only the highest total allowed in his career, but within one of the highest total allowed in the major leagues since 1919. Despite avoiding that infamy, Sabathia did tie a franchise record.

Yankee Pitchers Who Have Surrendered Five HRs in One Outing

Player Date Opp Rslt IP H ER HR GSc
CC Sabathia 8/12/2011 TBR L 1-5 8 10 5 5 49
David Wells 7/4/2003 BOS L 3-10 5.2 10 8 5 20
Jeff Weaver 7/21/2002 BOS W 9-8 7 10 8 5 27
Ron Guidry 9/17/1985 DET L 1-9 6 8 7 5 29
John Cumberland 5/24/1970 CLE W 8-7 6 8 6 5 34
Joe Ostrowski 6/22/1950 CLE L 2-6 8 9 6 5 45

Source: Baseball-reference.com

All season, Rivera and Sabathia have been close to automatic, so the thought of a week in which three loses are directly attributable to that dynamic duo is almost unfathomable. Before too long, you can all but guarantee the Yankees’ two super heroes will be back on the right path, but, in the meantime, it’s only natural to wonder what strange occurrence will come next? Maybe a complete game shutout by AJ Burnett? Scratch that. Even Bizzaro World has its limits.

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Lately, when CC Sabathia has taken the mound, Yankees’ relievers have been able to take the day off. In his last four starts, the big lefty has gone at least eight innings, the longest such streak in the majors this season. Considering the bullpen was used for a combined 19 2/3 innings in the games before his starts, Sabathia’s stretch of durability couldn’t have come at a better time.

Over his career, Sabathia has been no stranger to going deep into a game, so pitching eight innings doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment. However, his current streak is not only tied for the highest in his career, but since 2009, ranks second to Cliff Lee’s amazing run of 10 consecutive starts of eight innings, which was established last season.

Most Consecutive Starts of At Least Eight Innings, 2009-2011

Pitcher Start End Games W L CG IP ERA
Cliff Lee 6/18/2010 8/6/2010 10 6 2 5 86.1 2.08
CC Sabathia 5/19/2011 6/4/2011 4 4 0 1 33.2 1.60
Felix Hernandez 9/17/2010 4/1/2011 4 3 1 2 33 1.36
Felix Hernandez 6/13/2010 6/30/2010 4 3 0 2 35.2 1.26
Matt Cain 5/22/2010 6/8/2010 4 3 1 3 34 0.26
Tim Lincecum 6/12/2009 6/29/2009 4 3 1 3 35 1.03

Source: Baseball-reference.com

At his current pace, Sabathia would end the season with approximately 245 innings, giving him three straight seasons with at least 230. If the Yankees’ ace accomplishes that feat, he’d become the first Yankee to do it since Ed Figueroa in 1976 to 1978. What’s more, he would also become only the 23rd Yankees’ pitcher to throw at least 230 innings in any three seasons, and the eighth in the last 50 years.

Seasons with At Least 230 Innings by a Yankees’ Pitcher, Since 1961

Pitcher Years From To Age
Mel Stottlemyre 9 1965 1973 23-31
Whitey Ford 5 1961 1965 32-36
Ron Guidry 4 1978 1985 27-34
Fritz Peterson 4 1969 1972 27-30
Ed Figueroa 3 1976 1978 27-29
Doc Medich 3 1973 1975 24-26
Stan Bahnsen 3 1968 1971 23-26

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Sabathia is quickly establishing himself as one of the most durable (not to mention effective) starters in franchise history. In fact, he has been so good in his first two-plus seasons that it’s easy to sometimes take him for granted. However, his contribution to the team can’t be overstated, a realization that will likely come into play this off season. Should the big lefty decide to opt out, the Yankees may have no choice but to go just as deep as Sabathia.

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