Five Reasons Why It’s Officially Time to Worry About CC Sabathia


Over the last four-plus seasons, Yankees fans have taken heart that, when all else has failed, once every five days, the Big Guy, the Ace, CC Sabathia was going to take the hill. Even without his best stuff, fans knew CC was going to 7ish innings, 120ish pitches, and keep his team in the fight with a chance to win the game. In 2013, following an off-season that required “minor” elbow surgery, CC just hasn’t been that guy.

Stating the obvious: CC’s having a rough season. (Image: Mark L. Baer, USA TODAY Sports)

Back in April, we mused about whether or not the lack of velocity was a portent of things to come for CC’s season. It looks like that assessment might have been on to something as we take a look at a couple of alarming tidbits on CC’s less-than-stellar season:

1) On the season, CC has pitched in about 142.1 innings, and has allowed 148 hits- more than a hit per inning. Further, it is only July 22nd, and he has already tied his career high for homers allowed with 22; homer-happy Phil Hughes has only allowed 18, by contrast. With an ERA of 4.32 and a WHIP of 1.27, CC’s ERA has ballooned to it’s highest since 2002, during his second season in the majors (4.37). Interestingly, CC’s WAR has dropped precipitously since 2011, when he was worth 7.0 WAR.

2) In 2012, that number was 3.3; in 2013, that dropped to .5. In other words, CC Sabathia is only worth half a game more than any replacement player at his position. Think about that for a moment. The ace of the staff is only worth half a win. In a season where offense is hard to come by and the injuries are rampant, to have the “shut-down guy” disappear, that is a huge problem for the Yankees.

3) CC’s fastball topped out at 95+ mph 41% of the time in 2009, his first full year in pinstripes. In 2013, that fastball only hit 95+ .1% of the time. He hit 93-94 mph 41% of the time in 2009; in 2013, just 10% of the time. In fact, CC’s fastball hovers at 87-90 mph 50% of the time; at the time of his first season with the Yankees, that number was just 1%. Since last season, he has lost about a mile and a half off his fastball, down to 90.9 from 92.4, according to FanGraphs. Correspondingly, as CC’s velocity has dropped, he is unable to get away with mistakes as much- whereas a hitter might swing through a mistake in 2009, in 2013, it gets crushed over the Green Monster by Mike Napoli.

4) CC’s biggest issue has been the drop-off in velocity, specifically as it pertains to his fastball. Looking at CC’s wFB, or the total runs saved by a particular pitch. In 2009, CC’s wFB was a ridiculous +12.6, meaning that that particular pitched saved 12.6 runs for the Yankees. Consequently, that was also a year that Sabathia came in 4th in the Cy Young voting, and helped the Yankees notch #27 on the championship belt. However, in 2013, the wFB is -8, costing the Yankees 8 runs per game. Interestingly, that number was -12 in 2012; as we all know, after last season he required elbow surgery.

5) Since 2001, Sabathia has thrown over 42,000 pitches (!!!), and over 1,640 IP- prior to Sunday’s start at Boston. That is over 100 more innings than the next-closest pitcher, Mark Buerhle. With so much wear and tear on that arm, it is really remarkable how long CC has been able to be so dominant, and that he has not struggled sooner. With some years left, it would be best if CC could master pitching well without his best stuff- take a look at how Andy Pettitte has transformed into a finesse pitcher. If he can’t… buckle up until 2017.

I think at this point, we have been safe in not jumping off the cliff at the first sign of trouble. But with CC’s prolonged troubles and issues this season, it may be time to worry after all.