Thursday, April 16, 2015

Comparisons: 2015 CC Sabathia to 2008 Mike Mussina

While I was watching CC Sabathia’s second start of the young season on Tuesday night I was very encouraged by what I saw. Sure CC gave up more runs than we are accustomed to seeing from him and totally gave up on covering first and third base on plays but there were a ton of positives to pull from it. CC is still a work in progress but he was striking people out despite his dip in velocity, was keeping the ball down and for the most part kept the ball in the ballpark. Most importantly though he kept his team in the game and at this point in his career that’s all that really matters. CC reminds me more and more of another Yankees hurler at the end of his career that learned to pitch, not throw, with a lower velocity and succeeded, Mike Mussina.

Mussina won 20 games for the first time in his career in 2008, his final season, with a fastball that sat around 88 or 89 MPH, much like Sabathia’s has been sitting this season. CC would be lucky, in my opinion, to win 15 games this season let alone 20 games but you have to keep in mind that Mussina had a few more years to work on the transition from a power strikeout pitcher to a control pitcher. Mussina was 39 years old at the time while CC is just 34, although his degenerative knee problem and subsequent surgery may leave his body feeling more like he is 37 or 38. Mussina also had one powerful offspeed pitch to work off of that he had great control over his entire career, the knuckle curve, where CC has more or less lived and died off his fastball and slider.

Mussina learned to pitch without the velocity and still had swing and miss stuff much like another Yankee that recently retired, Andy Pettitte. Pettitte reportedly worked with CC on this over the winter and I have to say in an incredibly small sample size the teachings have been working. Sabathia is far from a finished product but if he can keep this up and keep getting better and more confident with every start then the remainder of his contract may not be the black hole that we all may have originally thought. 

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)