Great news for 2015 Yankees fans. Yankees ace CC Sabathia is claiming that he is injury and pain free for the first time in awhile and that he will begin throwing bullpen sessions this month. The New York Yankees pitching concerns must be coming to an end.
I signed on to Yanks Go Yard right around this time last season. That was when the Yankees fans began to turn on CC. They were upset that his velocity was declining and that he had logged so many pitches. Myself? I defended Sabathia on the site, foolishly thinking that he would bounce back in 2014. What’s that old saying? Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me? Or is it: the Bronx is boiling and I need to blow some steam.
HOW CC CAN BE SUCCESSFUL AGAIN
I was duped. I have no problem admitting it. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe the hype, albeit very negative, heading into 2014. Numbers don’t lie. CC’s 2013 was arguably the worst of his career. He posted career highs in both ERA (4.78) and WHIP (1.37). Not only did he let up the most runs of his career in a single season, he led all of baseball with 112 runs surrendered. He also posted his lowest strikeout total since 2006. Of course, that was the season he missed four games and pitched 20 less innings than in 2013. Simply put, CC looked washed up.
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But then, as he prepared for 2014, he discussed how he was learning how to pitch. He was working with Andy Pettitte on how to make the change from thrower to pitcher. I bought in full steam. It was the maturation of one of the best pitchers of his era, Yankees fans would see a front of the rotation ace again. We may not see the guy who plowed down 200 batters yearly, but we would see a calm and steady ace, looking to learn how to take his talents to the next level of his career.
It was all hogwash. Early in the season, CC Sabathia abandoned the new pitches he was learning because he wasn’t comfortable. His velocity was down even more than 2013 and he looked like a shell of his former self. We were then teased all season that he was recovering and may be back, until he ultimately shut it down for the year. The final numbers were awful: 8 starts and career worsts in nearly every category. What was more frightening was that it looked like his job was to pitch batting practice… to opponents’ teams.
I won’t be fooled this year. This is a guy that has throw 2821.1 innings. More than that, CC was a hard-throwing strikeout pitcher, which means he has thrown a ton of pitches over those innings. Throw in 107 playoff innings and you have a guy who’s probably thrown 20 years of a career compacted into 14 seasons. CC simply won’t be the same pitcher.
That means if the Yankees don’t want to eat his contract, and by all means they shouldn’t, they should adjust as well. Simply because CC makes ace money doesn’t mean the Yankees need to make him an ace. What the Yankees need to do is maximize their investment and get the most out of it.
How, you ask? Here’s the reality. The Yankees are never going to get $23 million worth out of Sabathia at this point, so what they need to do is get the best out of him that he has to offer. So, here’s the plan, Girardi: make Sabathia the fifth starter.
Ludicrous you say, I know. But this has many advantages. First off, Sabathia would be matching up with fifth starters on other teams. What CC needs most right now is to get that swagger back. If Sabathia can get in a groove, get that confidence back, then he can once again be dangerous.
Another huge upside is that early in the season and then sporadically throughout (around All Star break for example) fifth starters can be skipped the way the schedules are spread out unevenly. This gives Sabathia a rolling start. Instead of having to come out every fifth day right off the bat and figure out what he did wrong, he may have an extra few days to recoup and get right, in the head and in those knees.
Most Yankees fans are tired of Sabathia. I am not. But I won’t buy into the hype that he is fully healthy or back until I see something to prove it. That means that the Yankees need to give him the best possible situation for him to excel until he is comfortable again. If that means a year as a fifth starter and a return to a 15 win season, then it’s a chance Yankees fans should be willing to take.