Before CC Sabathia went on the disabled list with an inflamed ERA, er, I mean inflamed knee, he was a still a workhorse on the mound. He logged at least six full innings in five of his eight starts and lasted less than five innings only once all season. His replacement, Chase Whitley has yet to make it five full innings in a single start.
The Yankees starting pitchers have not been going deep into games. Vidal Nuno has pitched six innings only three times all season, albeit he has done it his last two times out. Hiroki Kuroda didn’t get out of the fifth inning his last start. David Phelps has been the most consistent, going 5 1/3 innings, 5 innings, 5 innings, and 7 innings in his last four starts. When a starter can’t pitch at least six innings, it means that the bullpen has to pick up the slack and get more outs.
The Yankee bullpen has been overtaxed this season. Adam Warren, Dellin Betances, and Matt Thornton have all appeared in over 20 of the team’s first 48 games. The bullpen has been short handed on several nights this season due to having to rest pitchers who have thrown multiple days in a row or multiple innings. This type of workload can function in the short term but is recipe for disaster over the course of a 162 game season.
Sabathia has pitched a minimum of 200 innings every year since 2006 when he logged 192 2/3. At a time when the starters are struggling to provide a lot of innings, the ability to give the ball to the big lefty is sorely missed. Sabathia had the ability to take the ball and exude confidence that he could give you six, seven or eight innings every fifth day. The bullpen was relieved to see him take the mound, knowing they would most likely have a leisurely short day. The other Yankees’ starters knew that he would save the bullpen for their starts if needed.
The loss of Sabathia for a major portion of this season will be felt in many ways. A young inexperienced starter like Chase Whitley will be tasked with getting major league hitters out instead of Triple-A guys. The pitching staff as a whole has a giant hole when a former Cy Young winner is removed from the equation. The clubhouse has lost one of it’s leaders. But most directly affected is the increased workload an already overtaxed bullpen will be forced to complete.