Jul
10

Give CC his due

By

Does one of the C’s in CC Sabathia stand for consistent? He is among the most sure things in baseball for a starting pitcher, and I think it’s this consistency that often has CC overlooked. When he was with briefly with Milwaukee he was mentioned as among the best pitchers in baseball, if not the best. In the year and a half since signing with the Yankees, those mentions have slowed, if not come to a full stop. Should they have?

Any conversation about the best pitchers in baseball undoubtedly includes Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Ubaldo Jimenez, Zack Greinke, Chris Carpenter and others. CC’s name is often left out. There are a few main factors which contribute to this: 1. He’s moved to the AL East, clearly the best division in baseball and toughest to pitch in. 2. He’s a high priced Yankee free agent signing. The MSM loves to gloss over the “Core Four” but the hired guns of the Yankees don’t get as much love, as they are often treated as mercenaries. CC doesn’t get bashed like A-Rod does, but he probably had has many glowing articles written about him nationally in his 3 months in Milwaukee as he has in a year and a half in pinstripes. 3. CC is historically a slow starter, so he doesn’t jump out of the gate fast with eye popping numbers. While I know ERA isn’t the best stat out there for pitchers (or close) I will consider it for the sake of this post as I’m questioning the lack of CC love in the mainstream.

What really brought this to my attention was a chat in April/May with Rob Neyer. He listed Lincecum, Greinke, Halladay, Hernandez, Haren and “Your favorite Cardinal” as the best pitchers in baseball. Those guys are all great, but considering the league switch, should Haren, Carpenter, Wainwright, and Lincecum automatically be considered better than CC? When asked about CC, Neyer replied “At the moment, no. He was among the very best when his K/BB ratio was in the 4-5 range. Since joining the Yankees he’s been under 3. Still plenty good, but not mystical.” Isn’t that simple statement explained by joining the Yankees in the AL East? Also of note, a follow up question the next week asked “You mentioned that CC isn’t on the level of the top pitchers in the league, and that when he gets hi K/BB ratio in the 4-5 range, it would be a better argument. Am I missing something, but little Timmy has never had a K/BB ratio in the 4′s for an entire season?” Neyer’s retort “No, he hasn’t. But his HR rate has been absurdly low. Sabathia’s a different sort of pitcher.”

Seriously? Lincecum’s HR is absurdly low not only because he’s a great pitcher, but he pitches in the NL, in an extreme pitchers park, in a division where he also gets to pitch in pitchers parks like LA and San Diego. If CC were pitching in San Francisco, even if his K/BB rate didn’t improve (which it undoubtedly would), wouldn’t his HR rate likely become “absurdly low?” While it’s a small sample size, it’s interesting to note that in CC’s 17 National League starts, his HR rate was 0.4/9. That’s the definition of absurdly low Rob. CC’s HR/9 in Interleague play is 0.5/9 (in 242 innings). Again, absurdly low.

Ubaldo Jimenez got off to a great start in 2010 (and has since, predictably, tailed off) but still hasn’t been as a good as CC was in Milwaukee and has a much shorter track record than CC had by the time he got to Milwaukee. Yet Ubaldo had a ton of articles written comparing him to Bob Gibson a month ago, while CC had articles written about how he can only beat the Orioles (written by a moron, but written and published nonetheless). Ubaldo has been fantastic this year, but can anyone really say he’s a better pitcher than CC? I’m not ready to, not by a long shot.

While the Greinke love has tailed off this year, he’s still a great pitcher and deserves to be discussed among the best in baseball. But better than CC? I don’t think you can say that with any certainty. His 2009 was otherworldly, and better than any season CC has had, but he hasn’t been as good as CC this year when using MSM stats and has been a very similar pitcher by more advanced metrics. Again, considering ERA as the MSM would, Greinke’s ERA is 3.10 since 2007 (including time in the pen) and CC’s is 3.05. Greinke was fantastic last year, but to simply use a one year sample to put him in the best in baseball conversation and leave CC out is shortsighted. It comes back to CC’s consistency. He hasn’t had an off the charts season from April to October, so his peak just hasn’t been as memorable. CC doesn’t have a 2.16 ERA like Greinke (only once under 3, never in the AL), so his consistency is almost a downfall. If he had a 4.10 ERA in 2007 and a 2.00 ERA in 2008, he’d have roughly the same 3.05 cumulative ERA, but in the minds of many, having one off the charts season would make him seem like a better pitcher. Hell, if you had polled around baseball before last October, many of the experts would tell you Josh Beckett is as good as CC. It ain’t close.

Without delving into the case of every top pitcher in baseball, it’s wrong to dismiss CC as not being amongst the best. Neyer mentioned Haren, Carpenter/Wainwright, and doesn’t consider CC in their class? Really? Even Neyer, who for the most part knows his stuff (except for the “Yankees clearly don’t care about defense” nonsense), and should understand the difference in leagues (and divisions within the leagues) made it a point to leave CC out. He didn’t forget CC, he specifically stated reasons why CC wasn’t among the top pitchers in baseball. You can tell me that Felix and Halladay are better than CC and I won’t make much of an argument. Neyer somehow even managed to leave out future Yankee Cliff Lee (was he subconsciously already fitting him for pinstripes?), whom you could certainly make a case for being among the best, but when you tell me that all of those are guys are definitely better than CC, I have to disagree.

For more of my work head over to Mystique and Aura.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bring-Melvin-To-America/193013541601?ref=sgm Andy In Sunny Daytona

    CC = Consistently Consistent.

    • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

      YES is so stealing that to put up in the “Pitcher’s Scouting Report” for the next time CC starts.

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

        Keys to the game:

        1.) Throw strikes
        2.) Limit runs
        3.) Try to score

        For more dynamite analysis, let’s head to Segment 2.

    • Mike HC

      As they say, “CC is a different animal”

  • steve (do)

    Durability is a skill and CC is way out in front of that category amongst today’s starters. He and Halladay anyway. The ability to ride him on short rest through the postseason last year was a HUGE strategic advantage for the yanks. There may be other guys with sexier rate stats, but they prob won’t give you as much bulk. As a large framed, extremely durable lefty, CC and the yanks were just a perfect match.

    • pat

      I don’t think durability is a skill. A lot of it is simple luck and preparation.

      • Brien Jackson

        “Skill” or not, it’s definitely an asset that has to be accounted for. More innings pitched by a good starter means fewer innings pitched by middle relievers.

      • steve (do)

        What about mechanics? Body type? Does preparation not count in terms of maintaining a skill? Maybe skill isn’t exactly the right word, maybe asset was better.

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

        I don’t think durability is a skill. A lot of it is simple luck and preparation.

        I think a lot of it is simple luck and preparation, and the rest of it is a skill.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Austin.M.Matherne Austin M. Matherne

    To be fair, he left out Lester too.

    • Mike HC

      Apparently he has yet to grasp the concept that the AL East is the most talented division in baseball, and thus, the best pitchers in the AL East, are usually the best pitchers in baseball.

  • Mike HC

    I love CC and always defend him as best in the league, or tied for best, but in reality, Halladay is the best. CC is number two and its tough to keep Lee out of the discussion but I don’t know if two and half years of top production is enough.

    Everyone else is somewhere after those two.

  • Januz

    Three guys that should be on anyone’s list as the best pitchers in Baseball: Josh Johnson, Cliff Lee and Jon Lester. Johnson may actually be number ONE, but because he plays for the Marlins no one knows who he is, I certainly do not put Haren in that class (He may not be top 20). My top 10 in no particular order are, Johnson, Halliday, Jimenez, Greinke, Wainwright, Carpenter, Lee, Lester, Lincecum, and CC. I dont put CC in the top 5 however (Johnson, Halliday, Jimenez, Lincecum, and Wainwright are my top 5). As for Haren, the other guys I would put ahead of him are. Andy, Hughes, Price, Niemann, Verlander, Santana, Strasburg, Carpenter, Billingsley, and Latos (10-4 2.45 ERA with San Diego)

    • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

      Yeah, it’s ridiculous that Johnson’s been getting no love this year.

    • Brien Jackson

      CC > Ubaldo

      I’d probably take him over Wainwright too. Johnson has to add another good season to get into that discussion for me.

      My top 5 at the moment (INPO): Halladay, Lee, Sabathia, Lincecum, Lester.

      • Mike HC

        Other than Lincecum, I agree with those four completely.

        • Pete

          yeah. replace timmy with Felix and you’re all set.

      • Januz

        If you look at Johnson’s numbers this season, they are sick: 2010 26 FLA NL 9 3 .750 1.70 18 18 0 1 0 0 122.0 89 25 23 4 28 1 123 4 0 4 478 246 0.959 6.6 0.3 2.1 9.1 4.39 Last year he had a .750 winning % as well. Keep in mind, this is on a bad Marlins team. He suffers from the Andy Pettitte disease………. underrated and underappreciated (With Lebron in South Beach, and Strasburg in the NL East, he will become even more obscure than the present).

        • Brien Jackson

          I was roughing a 3-4 year sample. Yeah, in terms of “who is having a great season” Johnson is either 1st or 2nd on that list.

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

          If you look at Johnson’s numbers this season, they are sick: 2010 26 FLA NL 9 3 .750 1.70 18 18 0 1 0 0 122.0 89 25 23 4 28 1 123 4 0 4 478 246 0.959 6.6 0.3 2.1 9.1 4.39

          It’s comments like these that put Januz in a special place in my heart.

          • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK’s Mystique and Aura

            Do you know how long he spent on the abacus to get that all set up?

            Have you no respect for hard work?

            (Nevermind that it’s pretty much unintelligible.)

          • jim p

            The 6.6 and 0.959 were especially eye-popping numbers.

          • Pete

            I’m gonna take a crack at it:
            2010: current year
            26: JJ’s age
            FLA: his team
            NL: his league
            9: wins
            3: losses
            .750: winning percentage
            1.70: ERA
            18: games
            18: games started
            0: shutouts
            1: complete games
            0: saves
            0: save opportunities
            122.0: innings pitched
            89: hits
            25: runs
            23: earned runs
            4: home runs
            1: intentional walks?
            28: walks
            123: strikeouts
            4: hit by pitch
            0: balks?
            4: wild pitches
            478: batters faced
            246: ???
            0.959: WHIP
            6.6: hits per nine innings
            0.3: ???
            2.1: walks per nine innings
            9.1: strikeouts per nine innings
            4.39: K/BB

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

              I’m proud of you, Pete. You kept your head on a swivel, and that’s what you’ve got to do when you’re in the middle of a vicious cockfight.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK’s Mystique and Aura

        I’d probably go Halladay, Lee, Johnson, Felix, Igawa.

        Shades!

    • Zack

      You put Andy and Niemann in front of Haren?

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

        Yeah, that’s ridiculous.

    • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

      Felix?

  • Ed

    On the brutality of pitching in the AL East… how true is that really when you’re a member of the Yankees or Red Sox? If you’re on one of those teams, your schedule becomes easier as you never have to face one of the top offenses. Of course, you do face the other one more often than you would in another division. Its definitely rough, I’m just not sure if it’s really as rough as we tend to make it out to be.

    If you’re on the Orioles, then yeah, you definitely have the worst schedule.

    • Mike HC

      yea, good point. It is definitely an advantage for CC to miss the Yanks lineup, ha.

    • Januz

      There is one thing that is overlooked, Pitching in the American League is much more difficult than the National League. The DH instead of a pitcher is obvious, but in addition to that, there MIGHT be one hitter in the NL West (Gonzalez), that would scare me. By comparison, even if you are a pitcher on the Red Sox, do you like facing Longoria & Pena or Tex & Arod in big situations? Keep in mind, you know you will likely face them 5-6 times a season (A conservative number based on 36 games in the division). ps. The Blue Jay lineup is not garbage either.

      • Pete

        Andre Ethier sheds a tear. Manny would, too, but he didn’t hear b/c he was on his quest for Batlantis

        • Januz

          Andre Ethier is good, but he is not like Guerrero, Hamilton, Arod, Cabrera etc. Manny is not close to what he used to be.

          • Pete

            Vladimir Guerero 2010 wRC+: 145
            Andre Ethier 2010 wRC+: 153

            Vladimir Guerero last three years wRC+: 128
            Andre Ethier last three years wRC+: 143

            Andre Ethier >>> Vladimir Guerero.

            • Pete

              also:

              Manny Ramirez 2010 wRC+: 154
              Manny Ramirez last three years wRC+: 157

              Manny Ramirez >>>> Vlad

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

      If you’re on one of those teams, your schedule becomes easier as you never have to face one of the top offenses.

      The Blue Jays, Orioles, and Rays are generally quite good offensively. It’s only bad pitching that keeps the two bird varieties down.

  • Pete

    CC’s track record is just ridiculous at this point. The last 4 seasons he’s had a meh first two months and then gone on to eat the league the rest of the way. I know it’s not fair to discount those first two months, but when he’s that consistent and reliable, it does make a difference knowing that the guy who keeps throwing 7 inning 4 run starts in the beginning of the season will pitch to a 2.50 ERA from June on.

  • JohnnyC

    I stopped reading Rob Neyer when I learned he likes wearing plaid shirts, hates the Yankees, and thinks spending a year going to games in Fenway will enhance his career if not his life.

  • ecks

    Great piece. The consistency angle reminds me of Tim Duncan, who is my absolute favorite basketball player.

  • Pete

    For my money, the current top ten would be Halladay, Hernandez, Lee, Sabathia, Johnson, Lester, Jimenez, Lincecum, Verlander, and Liriano, in something vaguely resembling that order.

  • http://twitter.com/dpatrickg Dirty Pena

    Too much reading.

    /beingadicktotheweekendwriter’d

    • JMK

      That hurts our feelings. :(

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

    My top 4 tiers (not in order inside each tier, as they’re pretty interchangeable), off the top of my head:

    Lee – Halladay – Felix – Dallas Braden

    (gap)

    CC – Lester – Johnson – Lincecum – Verlander

    (gap)

    Grienke – Jimenez – Carpenter – Wainwright – Santana – Kershaw – Gallardo – Strasburg (yes, already)

    (gap)

    Buchholz – Hughes – Price – Weaver – Oswalt – Cain – Hudson – Jurjjens – Liriano – Haren – Danks – Latos – Billingsley

    • Pete

      I could get on board with that.

    • Brien Jackson

      If we’re putting them on planes, I’d probably put CC on the same plane as Lee.

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

        2008-2010:

        CC: 138 ERA+, 3.32 K/BB, 6.97 IP/S
        Lee: 151 ERA+, 5.30 K/BB, 7.15 IP/S

        Not quite. Lee’s rocketed past him over the past two and a half seasons.

        • 28 this year

          i think he was talking about literal planes like airplanes maybe. Maybe my sarcasm meter is up a few notches.

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

      Fifth tier:

      Pettitte – Buehrle – Peavy – Lackey – Beckett – Burnett – Sheets – Vazquez – Romero – Neimann – Hanson – Garcia – Cahill – Anderson – Pelfrey – Shields – Carmona

      • Joe

        You need Matusz in at least one tier.

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

          Throw him in that fifth one.

          • http://twitter.com/dpatrickg Dirty Pena

            Ponson?

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

              Ponson gets a “fifth” of his own.

              http://www.instantrimshot.com

      • Januz

        I cannot believe you put Andy or Beckett on the same level as Vazquez.

        • Pete

          Beckett is on the same level as Vazquez, if he’s lucky. Andy’s probably a step above.

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

            2007-2010:

            Beckett: 118 ERA+
            Vazquez: 114 ERA+
            Andy: 109 ERA+

            • Pete

              yeah, but we’re also talking about consistency and what not. Beckett and Vazquez are kindasorta polar opposites; Vazquez is consistently decent, and throws a lot of innings, Beckett is, for the most part, pretty darn good, but never seems to go over ~170 innings in a season, and Pettitte’s consistently decent, except he’s been consistently decent in the AL East, vs. Vazquez’s not-as-impressive-and-skewed-by-one-sick-year-in-atlanta numbers.

              Think of it this way: if you were to pick those three pitchers in order for one season, how would you pick them? There’s an argument to be made, of course, but I think I’d go Andy, Javy, Beckett. But maybe I’m wrong.

    • Jose the Satirist

      I’m always amazed that Lincecum is never considered to be in the top tier. 18.8 WAR over the last 3 years. Can you guess what Halladay was worth? The same exact thing(18.8). Felix? 14 WAR over the last 3 years. Lincecum is a freak.

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

        He is. You know what else is a freak? Pitching in the NL West.

        • Jose the Satirist

          I’m pretty sure the FIP that is used is park-adjusted and the replacement level is set depending on the league. I don’t consider him pitching in the NL West enough of a reason to knock him down to the second tier.

    • http://twitter.com/AnaMariana42 Ana

      Lee – Halladay – Felix – Dallas Braden
      ICWUDT

      also, no Pettitte in top 4 tiers? /homerism’d

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

        You must respect the Two-Oh-Nine, bizzatch.

    • Rick in Boston

      I count 20 (non-Braden division) guys under 30. The depth of stellar young pitching in the majors right now is amazing.

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

        Indeed.

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

      I love these tiers (including the fifth one), but didn’t Jurrjens get very lucky last year?

      Hamels should be in the fourth or fifth tier, too, I think. Except 2008, he’s been unlucky; he’s a very good pitcher.

      • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

        Word; he does give up too many homers, though.

  • BadaBling

    Heading to SafeCo on Sunday to watch the big guy pitch, CC is a monster. Def my fav Yankee hurler to watch pitch live. No matter where your sitting, CC can be seen. IMO, CC is a top 2 or 3 pitcher behind only Halladay and King Felix. I would love to watch the top NL pitchers come close to the dominance CC has shown in his 1.5yrs in the Bronx!

  • Joe

    I live in Maryland and reading all these comments made me feel really bad for Brian Matusz. Dude is a stud on a just terrible team.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      Could be a stud. He’s not there yet.

  • Thomas Tu

    Rob Neyer’s a f—-t.

    Pardon my language, but he’s a notorious Yankee hater. It’s also very clear in his work that his hatred of the Yankees gets in the way of good blogging and journalism.

    • Zack

      “Pardon my language”

      Or pardon your ignorance for using that word.

  • Mike Nitabach

    Excellent post! Thanks for the detailed analysis.