C.C. Sabathia is coming into the 2014 with a new look. No, it’s not just his waistline. He’s currently in the process of adding a cutter to his repertoire. He has been working with very recently retired Andy Pettitte on the pitch.
There comes a time in every pitcher’s career when he can no longer throw as fast as he did when he was younger. That time has clearly come for Sabathia, as his fastball last year was 3 miles per hour slower than it was when he arrived in the Bronx in 2009. The 33-year-old lefty is being proactive about changing his pitching mindset before he has to, saying, “especially in this game you always have to keep involved and try to get better.”
Pettitte made the cutter a key element of his game as his velocity dropped as well, adding years of success onto his career. Often, pitchers will try to throw their fastball past hitters years after their best days are over. As a result, longevity becomes an issue. Along with the cutter, Sabathia throws a slider, curveball, and change up. Last season he threw his four-seam fastball 57% of the time, his slider 22%, his change-up 15%, and his curveball 6%. He has been relatively consistent in his career with his pitch selection other than his curveball, which he actually did not use in either 2009 nor 2010.
Sabathia is the current ace of the Yankee staff, but Masahiro Tanaka is sure to be close on his heels. While Sabathia is signed through 2016 with an option for 2017, he needs a compelling season to remain the number one starter. For the sake of both Sabathia and the Yankees, let’s hope his new cutter is the answer.