The once dominant ace of the New York Yankees, C.C. Sabathia has fallen prey to, among other things, large innings counts. Since his rookie season in 2001, the big southpaw has pitched in 2775.1 innings and has faced over 11,000 batters. Throw in bullpen sessions and a good hundred frames of postseason play, and you get one tired arm. While keeping strict pitch and inning counts shouldn’t be used for star pitchers (the Stephen Strasburg scenario still boggles minds), Sabathia can’t continually throw 200 innings for the next few years. In the five seasons that C.C. has been a Yankee, he has pitched at least 211 innings each season (including playoffs). From 2009-2011, he pitched at least 245 innings every year. He was a workhorse who would give innings and outs. Until last year.
2013 was a rough year for the left-hander, but 2014 may be different. Sabathia has played October baseball ever since he was with the Cleveland Indians in 2007 before he missed the postseason last year. Maybe an extra month off could provide much needed rest on his left arm. Consider the recently retired Roy Halladay, known as the premier innings-man in baseball when he played with the Blue Jays and Phillies. He led the American League in innings pitched on four separate occasions; in his last leading season in 2010, he pitched 250.2 innings at age 33 (C.C. is 33 now). Yet Halladay only made two postseasons in his career, both with the Phillies in 2010 and 2011. Halladay pitched 70 innings less in the postseason than Sabathia, saving Halladay’s arm from an extra few weeks of pitching each time he missed the postseason (although he probably would have shortened his career to win a World Series). Maybe the reason why Halladay was so solid during the regular season had to do with the fact that he never had to worry about pitching in October. Maybe a year out of the postseason could benefit Sabathia.
However, in Doc’s last two seasons, he succumbed to various injuries and was not sharp on the mound at all, with ballooned ERA’s of 4.49 and 6.82 respectively. Sabathia has pitched to more batters in more innings than Halladay. C.C. has experienced a few arm issues, too. The comparison doesn’t look promising. Sabathia isn’t the same pitcher he was five years ago; he has lost his velocity, and worse, his confidence. He set many career lows in 2013 including, but not limited to, losses, ERA, WHIP, and ERA+. The future holds little hope that Sabathia becomes an elite ace again. Considering Sabathia is signed until at least 2016 and making $23 Million each season, he must show improvement next year. Any ERA lower than a 4.00 would be a tremendous feat. The Yankees should also not let him pitch more than 200 innings this season if he just can’t find his stuff. But we’re all rooting for you, number 52.