2012 Pitching Projections: CC Sabathia

Looking at Baseball Think Factory’s ZiPS Projections for the 2012 Yankees is interesting for a number of reasons. In addition to the projections themselves, the Yankees profile was the first MLB team that BTF covered this year, and they did so way back at the end of October. Of course, a lot can happen in 10 weeks, and the reality of the Yankees’ rotation today is quite different from what almost everyone expected when the offseason started. Note BTF’s reasoning for why Yankees fans shouldn’t be too worried about seeing Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances in the Bronx before they are ready:

The good news for Yankees fans, of course, is that the team has an open wallet and is likely to be a serious player in the free agent market, especially if they can quickly and neatly deal with the Sabathia situation.

The quick, neat deal with CC Sabathia went off without a hitch. But as for that “open wallet” and being “a serious player in the free agent market”… well, you know how that has turned out.

That being said, unless the price on Matt Garza or Edwin Jackson comes WAY down it looks as if the Yankees will head into 2012 with the following rotation:
1. Sabathia
2. Ivan Nova
3. Freddy Garcia
4. A.J. Burnett
5. Phil Hughes/Hector Noesi

Not bad, right? The addition of a C.J. Wilson or a Yu Darvish certainly would have solidified the rotation with a strong #2 starter, but a team could do a lot worse than the group of guys the Yankees have. After all, the above rotation (plus Bartolo Colon) was good enough for 97 regular season wins last year. And with the Yankees’ juggernaut offense you don’t need a staff of 5 aces, so long as the starters can keep you in the game through 6 innings and allow the hitters and the relievers to do their jobs.

But back to the ZiPS Projections – what exactly do they say that we should expect from the Yankees rotation this coming season? Baseball Think Factory notes that the projections are “rather grumpy” with the Yankees’ staff, and for the most part I’d have to agree. Over the next few days we’ll take a look at each of the Yankees starters, and we’ll start with CC:

Photo Credit: NY Daily News


2012 ZiPS Projections – 17-8, 3.55 ERA, 218.0 IP, 211 H, 86 ER, 19 HR, 63 BB, 189 K
2011 Actual Numbers – 19-8, 3.00 ERA, 237.1 IP, 230 H, 79 ER, 17 HR, 61 BB, 230 K

Sabathia is one of those rare sure things in baseball. You know he’s going to give you a ton of innings, go deep into games, and step up and shut down the opponent when you really need him to. As for the ZiPS numbers, I think they are pretty spot-on with the exception of ERA and strikeouts. In my opinion, the projected ERA of 3.55 is too high for CC. Since 2006 Sabathia has not posted an ERA higher that 3.37, and in 5 of those 6 years his ERA has been sub-3.25. With that in mind, I think CC will be somewhere in the 3.20-3.30 ERA range in 2012. As for the strikeouts, part of the difference between CC’s 2011 total and the 2012 projection can be chalked up to the fact that ZiPS expects him to pitch fewer innings. However, I think a difference of 41 Ks (18% of his 2011 total) is a bit excessive. I do expect CC’s strikeouts to drop (the only other time he exceed 210 Ks in a season was 2008), but I expect the actual number to be closer to 205 than the ZiPS projection of 189. Regardless, you know that CC is good for 33 or 34 starts this season and that when he takes the mound you can feel pretty confident that the Yankees will be a good position to win.

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