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Did Everyone Forget CC Sabathia Was Awful Before He Was Injured?


CC Sabathia is not a pitcher worth over $20 million dollars per year. I would argue that for the last season and a third that he isn’t worth half that. He is certainly not worth being the ace of the New York Yankees. Masahiro Tanaka has taken that title from the suddenly svelte Sabathia almost immediately. Now Sabathia is on the disabled list and the Yankees are scrambling to replace him. However, they aren’t replacing an ace, they are simply trying to get an arm on the field.

Sabathia’s downfall really took shape last year. He finished 2013 with a 4.78 ERA in 32 starts. He was nearly the worst pitcher in the majors last year for starting pitcher who qualified. This year had been going even worse until the injury. He has a 5.28 ERA in 2014 so far.

While some of that mad be the product of bad luck, he’s not an ace. Looking at the last year and a third, the Yankees could have plugged any run of the mill guy in there and done better. The team is paying him to lead the most famous baseball team in the world, and he is pitching like Erik Bedard.

While losing his arm in the rotation suddenly is terrible and I would never wish an injury on a player, I don’t mind losing him. I just wish the Yankees knew it was coming.

Sabathia was never going to make it to 40 throwing as hard as he always has. However, his decline has been so quick and so drastic that the team is suddenly scrambling to determine what to do with him. There is no way that Joe Girardi can make him the number one starter next season. Can the Yankees front office handle having a guy making $23 million pitch fourth in the rotation?

That won’t happen, but loading up on arms this coming off season (remember Hiroki Kuroda is almost certainly retiring after the year) is expected. Girardi is good at making difficult managing decisions in the face of ego. As long as the front office lets him, he will be moving Sabathia down the starting rotation.

While Sabathia has gone to see Dr. James Andrews for his knee injury, it is not necessarily season threatening. Alfredo Aceves appears to be the man filling the rotation spot until he comes back. Aceves is not a man without questions of his own.

While Sabathia is guaranteed to give up 4 runs every time he goes out, Aceves will either give the Yankees a shutout or surrender 12 runs. I’m not sure which is better at this point, but I’m excited to give Aceves a try after his success with the team just a few short years ago.

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  • steve

    You are absolutely right. Clemens was the same way. Five runs by the sixth with every announcer saying: ” If Roger didn’t have that bad inning…”. Well, Roger did and the other pitcher didn’t. Sabathia’s a good dude and I hope he learns how to survive but he’s no longer an ace

  • Joseph

    “The team is paying him to lead the most famous baseball team in the world, and he is pitching like Erik Bedard.”

    No, the team knowingly paid him to lead the team for the first half of the contrcat or so, fully aware that in “baseball economics” he was underpaid during that stretch and would then be overpaid in the back half.

    That is how all MLB contracts are gauged out, no matter how hard some people try to argue otherwise.

    One win was valued at around 6.5M when he landed the deal.

    Using that metirc (and this is how teams that are, for lack of a better phrase, SABR-oriented, start the framework for deals they hand out) his salary should have been somewhere around the following figures:

    2009 40.1M
    2010 33.4M
    2011 48.25M
    2012 25.25M

    While not entirely accurate because the value of wins tends to inflate with each passing season as salaries increase it gives you an idea that he was underpaid on the front end. The team gets the better value on the front end and the players get the better end of the deal on the back end.

    It’s the nature of the beast.

    The problem is that people like Joe Girardi, and I guess in some ways you if you actually think C.C. should be that same player, think he should still be pitching at that level (or in Girardi’s delusional case he actually IS at that “ace” like level).

    Fans and the Yankees themselves need to temper expectations. He is more like your typical 5th starter in MLB right now and that is entirely acceptable because we got over on the front end of the deal.

    He was a bargain early on, getting paid around 50-60% of what baseball economics says he should have been paid AND helped bring another WS title into the fold (always bonus points).

    Move forward expecting a whole lot less from him and it’ll save people some heart ache.