What made CC so effective last night?

Tomko up; Robertson down
Game 30: Yanks look to Hughes for continuation of last night

Last night, CC Sabathia showed the Yankees and their fans exactly what he was capable of. After a month of starts that were nothing more than adequete, Sabathia shutout the Orioles in impressive fashion, retiring twenty-three of twenty-four at one point. He recorded the final three outs in the ninth on strikeouts, then followed it up with a roar that announced to everyone that the real CC Sabathia had finally arrived.

But what made Sabathia so much more effective last night than his Opening Day assignment? Since both starts were in Baltimore, we can take a look at Sabathia’s stuff through Pitch f/x without having to worry about slight differences in the PFX cameras. Let’s start off with Sabathia’s pitch selection (remember to click on any graph in this post for a larger view):

Pitch Selection

The two outings are similar, except that Sabathia broke out the changeup more often last night. Back in April he was basically a two pitch pitcher, throwing either his fastball or slider 87% of the time. That dropped to 80.3% last night. Half of Sabathia’s eight strikesouts came on changeups, evidence that the pitch was keeping O’s hitters off balance.

After the jump, we’ll take a quick look at Sabathia’s individual pitches.


Sabathia Fastballs

The most noticeable difference between the fastball Sabathia was unleashing last night and the one he was working with last month is the velocity. On average, the heater came in at 94.5 mph last night, compared to 93.0 last month. Several pitches registered at or above 96 mph last night, but just one pitch came within half a mile an hour of that mark on Opening Day.

Despite that extra velocity, the thing that made Sabathia so much more effective last night than last month was the way he pounded the strike zone with his fastball. Of the 64 fastballs he threw last night, 41 were strikes, or 64.0%. On Opening Day, just 29 of 54 fastballs were strikes, or 53.7%. That’s a huge, huge difference.


Sabathia Sliders

The sliders was a little less sweepy last night, as you can see from the bird’s eye view. Like the fastball, Sabathia’s slider also came in a little bit harder last night.


Sabathia Changeups

Pretty much a repeat of the above here, the changeup looks the same, just had a little more oomph behind it.

So in conclusion, there were three major differences between the CC Sabathia we saw last night and the Sabathia that showed up on Opening Day:

  1. Velocity: Everything was harder last night, as Sabathia touched 97 with his fastball. Exceptional velo for anyone, let alone a southpaw.
  2. More Changeups: He didn’t throw that many more than he had last night, but every little bit counts.
  3. Strikes: Sabathia was very aggressive in the zone last night, particularly with his fastball.

Short but sweet post, since we didn’t have to look very hard to see what made Sabathia so effective last night. I look forward to many more outings like this in the future.

Tomko up; Robertson down
Game 30: Yanks look to Hughes for continuation of last night
  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    You know what else made CC more effective:


    Yeah, I said it.

    • http://9thinning.blogspot.com VO

      He tipped the wrong pitches?

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        The Orioles hitters were distracted by his exquisite breasts.

        • whozat


          • jsbrendog

            i’ve created a monster

  • http://www.livevideo.com/RBIRadio Joey H

    Thanks for encouraging articles like this about the Yankees unlike this.
    “The Yankees beat the Orioles 4-0 last night as A-Rod made his season debut with a three-run homer and CC Sabathia threw a four-hitter with eight strikeouts. The Yankees have lost five of their last six games and nine of their last 14. They are 4.5 games out of first place.”

    Thats like saying, your stomach is good, your bladder is good, your lungs are good BUT YOU’RE GOING TO DIE FROM TERMINAL CANCER! Gotta love the optimism. I swear chubs hates the Yankees.

    • Chris

      I think he likes antagonizing the fans. It drives people to his blog, which is really his ultimate goal.

      • jsbrendog

        could possibly be a reason why he doesnt moderate the comments and anyting goes. that place would be an oaktag atomic fallout

        • http://eastrutherfordrant.com donttradecano

          Im guessing Pete Abe is to blame?

      • http://www.livevideo.com/RBIRadio Joey H

        It drives me away actually. I doubt anyone says “YO! GO TO THIS BLOG! THIS GUY IS SUCH AN ASSHOLE AND I LOVE IT!”

  • http://www.livevideo.com/RBIRadio Joey H

    The big thing was the use of CC’s change up. I said this after I was at his last start against the Angels. That and pitching with almost an instant lead I’m sure helps. It worked wonders for Tehh Jabber.

    • whozat

      It’s hard for me to say that the change mattered more than the improved fastball velo and command.

      • http://www.livevideo.com/RBIRadio Joey H

        Let’s face it. The guy was who he should be yesterday. Without command the change up wasn’t of much real use.

  • Iowa Yank

    Yeah i appreciate your stats and well informed analysis but where does CC’s awesomeness factor in?

  • http://www.livevideo.com/RBIRadio Joey H

    Where does CMW make his next start by the way? Fat man scoop, ERGH. I mean fat man has the scoop that he might pitched next in a MiL game. Not AAA right? Just thinking since IPK is down and Hughes is up here they can throw him in there for a start.

  • V

    Dave Eiland must have fired him up and that’s why he pitched well. Too bad Dave won’t do that with the relievers. That’s what’s missing.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      It’s all Dave Eiland’s fault… he’s so unclutch.

  • http://bronxbaseballdaily.baby-bombers.com/ Matt ACTY/BBD

    Just an awesome game. It was great to see the velocity on Gameday up in the mid-90’s. It wasn’t as good as being able to see it in person but I’ll take it.

  • http://www.new.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/profile.php?id=594331910&ref=name Jamal G.

    Am I misremembering, or does CC throw a slurve and neither a slider or hammer? [Yeah, I know that the pitch f/x wouldn’t clarify a slurve pitch, just wanted to know for myself.]

    • A.D.

      Thats what I thought.

    • CB

      CC throws a true slider. It’s a plus pitch and he gets swings and misses with it to both lefties and righties. He throws it a bit differently to lefties – gets more horizontal break on it. He puts some more downward bite into it against righties and burying it into their backfoot more.

      It’s one of the better sliders in the game.

  • andrew

    MIke – you cite the top 3 reasons for CC’s success last night as being velocity, increased changeups and throwing strikes… I don’t necessarily agree with the velocity comment, yes it helps, but as we’ve seen with plenty of other guys, throwing 97 doesn’t get you outs. I think points 2 and 3 sum up the outing much better, but could’ve been consolidated into 1. Basically, last night CC had command of all of his pitches. He could locate the fastball on either corner, fool them with the change, or make them look helpless with a nasty slider in the dirt. When it comes down to it, when CC is controlling all of his pitches at once, he will have the ability to do what he did last night.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to attack your reasoning, just offering up that I think the command of all of his pitches last night was exceptional. Obviously, if you’re going to add 2 MPH to every pitch AND increase your command, it’s going to have incredible effects (see: last night). But i think the biggest difference between last night and opening day was how he could control each pitch

    • Josh

      Mike actually talked about control in his analysis – “throwing strikes.” Sure, guys can make a living in the low 90s but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who throws in the low 90s and wouldn’t want to throw in the mid to high 90s. Plus, CC’s used to throwing hard. If he isn’t, who knows if it eats him up or not? Some guys just can’t catch up to that stuff.

      • andrew

        Yea, I guess i was just trying to differentiate between just purely throwing strikes and having command… I think there’s a difference between the two and I guess i was unclear about that

  • CB

    Nice analysis. It was also interesting that compared to the april start all of this pitches had less horizontal movement last night. It seemed like his ball was perhaps moving too much in that poor start in april. Could have been part of why he was throwing more strikes last night and had better command.

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