Friday, January 10, 2014

Can CC Sabathia Figure It Out?

"I'm sure I can figure out how to get guys out."

In all of the talk about Masahiro Tanaka, as well as other possible pitching acquisitions like Matt Garza, Yankees fans have (at least for now) forgotten about the Yankees' "ace who wasn't an ace in 2013".

I hate to bring up painful memories, but CC Sabathia had the worst season of his career in 2013. His ERA+ of 85 was easily the lowest it's ever been, his win-loss record was barely over .500, his ERA and WHIP were also at career highs, and he gave up more home runs than ever before. For the first time in six years, CC failed to get any Cy Young or MVP votes, and didn't make the All Star team.

While there were slight changes in the movement of some of his pitches, particularly his sinker which has been a bit flatter in the past two seasons, the majority of CC's problems have revolved around velocity.

Sabathia's PitchFX data can be seen here, which shows that all of his pitches have slowed down. Unfortunately I don't expect that velocity to come back, as CC is now 33 years-old. I don't mean to say it's impossible, but I'm not pointing out anything groundbreaking when I say that people lose strength more often than they gain it as they age.

Then again, how fast a player can throw a ball can depend on more than his strength. So it's not out of the realm of possibility that Sabathia's average fastball returns to the 95-96 mph area. But the big man doesn't seem too concerned about that...
“(The velocity) doesn’t mean a lot. I’ve figured out I can pitch with it or without it. Whatever that is. Whether it’s 90 to 92, or 92 to 94. I can pitch both ways. As long as I’m healthy and I’m strong, and I feel good, it is what it is. I’m 33 years old, turning 34."
CC clearly knows how to pitch, as it takes a heck of a lot more than velocity to make it in the big leagues, something that Mr. Sabathia has done for 13 years. I think it just takes time to learn how to adjust to certain things, and that's what we've seen for the last year or so.

Although nothing is clear, the Yankees' pitching rotation in 2014 could look pretty good. Just think... CC Sabathia figures out how to pitch good to great again, Hiroki Kuroda stays solid, Ivan Nova builds off of his 2013 season, Warren/Phelps/Banuelos or another young pitcher stands out, and the team brings in another top-of-the-rotation starter like Masahiro Tanaka. Add that to a revamped offense and you have the making of a team that could go all the way.

Looking around at all the pessimistic Yankees fans out there I may be in the minority, but I'm really looking forward to what the Yankees do next season.

-quotes courtesy of Meredith Marakovitz's interview for YES with CC Sabathia.

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