CC Sabathia’s Playoff Record and True Ace Status


Much hoopla was made over the legitimacy of CC Sabathia‘s role as an ace for the New York Yankees. Many believe he’s not a true ace, but merely a good pitcher packaged as #1 starter in a rotation. It’s not a fair assessment to Sabathia who pitched very well in the Bronx as well as out in Cleveland, where he started his career. After last night’s beautiful performance against the Baltimore Orioles in Game 1 of ALDS, which the Yankees took 7-2, the hefty lefty was masterful and deserves all the praise as an ace.

We’re cheering right there with you, Mr. Sabathia. (Image: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE)

It’s true that Sabathia has struggled in some postseason games. For instance, while a member of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 he was lit up in for five runs off six hits, in only 3.2 innings of work against the Philadelphia Phillies. That same team went on to win the World Series that season. Furthermore, in 2007, against the eventual World Series champions, Boston Red Sox, he laid two eggs going 0-2 and surrendering 12 runs on 17 hits in only 10.1 innings. Once more, he went 0-2 against the eventual American League representative in the World Series, Texas Rangers, back in 2010 after pitching 10 innings and giving up 17 hits and seven runs.

With outings and series’ like that, it’s no wonder many have questioned his legitimacy as an ace. However, those people are just looking for holes and conveniently forget how great he is on the mound. For example, last night’s game against the O’s, he pitched incredibly. He went 8.2 innings, surrendering two runs on eight hits and only gave up two extra base hits. With the scored tied at two in the eighth, he allowed a double to start off the inning to J.J. Hardy with the big bats coming up. Like a true ace, he retired the next three batters in order.

Need more evidence? Sure, how about the 2009 ALCS against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim where he pitched a total of 16 innings and went 2-0, surrendering only two runs and nine hits over those two starts? Those numbers look pretty ace-like to me. I will concede the fact that when he looks bad, he looks really bad. But, you’ll need to admit when he’s good, he’s nearly unhittable.

Consider this, in eight appearances in the ALDS, Sabathia is 5-0 with a 3.73 ERA, I will take that any postseason. If we break it down further in those eight appearances he has pitched 41 innings, allowed 41 hits and 19 runs (17 earned) while striking out 41 batters. His walk totals (5.0 BB/9) are inflated from season totals (2.7 BB/9), but he’s helping himself (and the team) by stranding runners.

The proof is in the pudding, or some cliche like that, showing that Sabathia is indeed an ace. He doesn’t buckle under the big lights or on the national stage. No, instead, he’s more of the same with regards to his regular season numbers, which is a very good thing. Naysayers and contrarians would like to discount Sabathia’s numbers to show how bad he is in the postseason and how overrated he is. Sadly, they seemingly overlook all the good he does while on the mound. There’s a reason he’s the top guy going into a series, and it’s no wonder his teams have made the postseason in seven of his 12 seasons. Just sit back and enjoy the show, Big Poppa-style.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference