Not the best or worst of nights for Sabathia

A-Rod, Jeter, Sabathia among the highest earning athletes in 2010
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Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Looking at the scoreboard and nothing else, it would appear that CC had a so-so night against the Royals. He allowed four runs, three earned through just 6.1 innings, which is a few outs short of a typical Sabathia start. He did strike out nine, nice because his strikeout rate is down a bit at this point and we know he started heating up during the summer months last year. But those 11 hits stand out. So do the 120 pitches he threw to record those 19 outs.

Really, though, it wasn’t that bad a game for Sabathia. Of the 19 balls he allowed in play, eight were hit on the ground. That’s a good thing. While the AL hits to a slightly better batting average on ground balls, .231, than fly balls, .222, those ground balls rarely go for extra bases. AL hitters have produced a .248 SLG on grounders and a .577 SLG on fly balls. So while grounders might result in a few extra men on base, they hurt a lot less than balls hit in the air.

This plays right to the Royals’ game. As Joe Posnanski chronicled earlier in the week, the Royals pick up base hits and little else. They’re first in the majors in batting average, but they’re just seventh in OBP and 10th in SLG. They hit, sure. But they also make plenty of outs and they have a hard time advancing runners multiple bases. It’s no surprise that the team has a .325 wOBA that ranks ninth in the AL.

Despite the high hit and undesirable run totals, we can take plenty of positives from this outing. For instance, CC’s strikeout rate is slightly down this year, 7.4 per nine. Last night he struck out nine Royals. His average velocity this season, according to PitchFX, has been 93.4 mph. Last night he averaged almost a mile per hour faster, 94.25 mph, and topped out at 96.5. He hit 96 plenty of times in the sixth inning, even though he had lost his control by that point.

Sometimes those ground balls will find holes. Thankfully, they don’t do much damage if you can keep inducing those grounders. That’s the beauty of the situation. While hitters reach base more often when hitting the ball on the ground, they’re also vulnerable to the double play with a man on and less than two outs. So if one guy hits one on the ground through a hole, the next guy might do the same thing and erase both runners. CC has an added weapon in that he can strike out hitters and therefore leave more of them stranded. Again, that’s what we saw a lot of last night.

Remember, too, that there were other little things for which we can’t blame Sabathia. In the first inning, for instance, Billy Butler would have grounded into an inning-ending force out, but the runner was moving. That forced Robinson Cano to move from exactly the spot where Butler hit the grounder. And then there’s Jorge Posada‘s head-scratching throw to third. But that’s for another day. All of this hurt Sabathia even further.

One thing we can be sure of: his early season trouble are over. He did have some, for sure, but lately all we’ve seen is vintage CC. In his last 13 starts he has pitched 91 innings while striking out 81 and walking 33. He has allowed 83 hits in that span on a .306 BABIP. And, after struggling with the homer earlier in the season he hasn’t allowed a single on in his last nine starts.

Some of the numbers make last night’s outing look like middling, but looking it a bit deeper it was actually pretty good. The nine strikeouts are encouraging, as are the ground balls. It’s just that some of them found holes last night. If CC pitches similarly next time out I suspect that his line will look a lot more attractive.

A-Rod, Jeter, Sabathia among the highest earning athletes in 2010
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  • vin

    0 homeruns in his last 9 starts. I’ll take that. CC is tremendous.

    • jsbrendog (returns)

      he is also a good pitcher


      • bexarama

        It’s funny because he’s fat!

        • Bryan


  • Johnny O

    No compaints about CC. But what the hell was Posada thinking with that throw?! One of the biggest brain farts I can remember seeing a good baseball player make.

    • Chris

      Perhaps Posada was thinking that the runner was so far off the base that he would have been easily out with a reasonable throw. You should try to get the lead runner when you can.

  • CountryClub

    He really did have an odd game. His final line could have been worse. Remember, that run didn’t score in the 1st because the guy got thrown out at 2nd. If the runner going home didnt go into trot mode, he would have scored easily. And if betemit didnt try to stretch the single into a double, who knows what happens in the inning. CC had given up 4 straight hard hit balls at that point. And he lucked out on the phantom tag by Jorge. Although the throw beat the runner by plenty and Jorge should have made the play easily.

    Just a really strange outing. But a win is a win.

  • UWS

    CC did get dinked and doinked to death last night. Also aside from the little things you mention, Joe, there were a few other non-plays that seemed like they should’ve been made, at least from where I sat in the stands. There was a ball or two hit Pasta-Diving-Jeter(tm), as well as a ball that ARod might’ve been able to catch, and the double to Swisher at the wall in a later inning. None of these counted as errors, but defense played like crap and CC bailed them out.

    Don’t even get me started on Jorge…

    • larryf

      Swish can be an adventure out there and his throwing arm can be as well and Jeter is terrible on dives up the middle. Has anybody ever seen that play before where his front hand caused the bad hop over the glove hand? Very strange.

    • whozat

      I dunno if it’s the heat or what, but the team has looked like crap since the break. The two days I was there, the defense made several bad plays as well. Rushed throws, Tex not coming off the bag to block rushed throws, missed popups in the OF. I hope it’s just the weather — which has been, admittedly, brutal.

      • CountryClub

        Really it’s been the pitching. Not one pitcher has thrown a good game since the break. CC has battled through it in both his starts, but he’s been average compared to his usual self. And the rest of the staff got hammered.

        Luckily, the bats have picked up the pace. It would be nice to see both units performing well at the same time.

        • whozat

          Yes, the pitching has been frustrating, certainly for the fans and probably for the players. But there have been multiple poor defensive plays in at least 3 of the last 7 games.

  • Molon Labe

    Most ML shortstops would have easily turned Posednik’s 2nd inning grounder into a force out at 2nd, if not a double play.

    Instead, DJ deflected that into the outfield off his right hand, allowing Aviles to score from second base. The Official Scorer should have (at the very least) charged an Error, for allowing Aviles to advance that extra base.

    Since CC retired the next two batters (SO & pop-up), then the Royals’ 3rd run would also have been unearned.

    • CountryClub

      Look, his range is not good. But that was a fluke play. The ball bounced off his hand…he didnt deflect it. It’s not like he was flailing at it with his bare hand.

    • Ross in Jersey

      fallacy of the pre-determined outcome.


  • theyankeewarrior

    There were certainly a lot of defensive plays that worked against CC last night.

    (wonders if anyone on the coaching staff or team has the balls to tell Jorge to take three steps to his right and get a fucking angle on his throw to FIRST BASE after a K, because it’s the third time it’s happened in the last week)

    But Gardner also made two amazing plays/throws to save runs.

    The worst thing the defense did for CC last night was make him work. Usually, he would have gotten through 7 innings, but the extra 2 or 3 outs he had to get probably took a toll on his arm.


  • Ross in Jersey

    You guys and your facts are all wrong, CC clearly didn’t have his best stuff because he changed his warm-up music.


  • Frank

    A couple things about this game stand out for me. First, there is no excuse for lack of hustle and it clearly cost the Royals. Obviously, in the first inning thanks to Guillen jogging home (this is exactly why the Yanks should never even consider this guy) and when Bloomquist failed to run hard after he K’s against Joba. Also, this game exposed how bad a defensive cather Posada is. I’m not talking about the throw to third or the lob to first. That happens- for the most part, Jorge doesn’t have issues throwing and he just made a bone head decision on the attempted throw to third. But that play at the plate was just awful. Despite having the plate blocked, Jorge actually gave way and backed up just to avoid the impact. Although called out, the runner was actually safe. And it wasn’t even close- just bad positioning by the umpire or he just assumed Jorge made the tag. I know Cervelli’s numbers have dropped considerably, but I’d still rather have him catch more than Posada (let Posada DH).

    • nsalem

      Jorge never gives up his body unless it is in an extremely high leverage situation. It is frustrating at times but I believe this is why he is still thriving offensively in his late thirties and he still is in relatively decent health.

      • Chris

        Exactly. I think the idea of catchers blocking the plate is way way way overrated. You’re not going to get that many more outs (when you count the times the catcher actually stops the runner vs times the runner knocks the ball out of his glove). More importantly, the risk of injury to the catcher is extremely high.

        • Steve H

          Agreed. Especially in a July game against the Royals. The risk greatly outweighs the reward.

  • nsalem

    CC’s performance last night is the text book explanation of why he is a true ace and what separate’s him from pitchers like Burnett who are blessed with equal talent. His mental toughness and composure gibe him the ability to grind through nights when things are going not going right. Last night he was hit with the triple whammy of a)not having his stuff b)bad defensive behind him c)questionable umpiring.
    Where many pitches would have imploded (especially after the balk call),
    CC just gets right back in focus and deals with the business at hand.
    Only the best pick up the W in circumstances like night and CC is one of them.

  • JoeC

    Don’t you read Rob Neyer? If you did you’d know CC is washed up and his contract is an albatross….Great post and excellent analysis. CC is still a Beast and I have total faith he’s saving his best pitching for September/October.

  • Steve H

    Based on CC and Joba’s performances I have zero concern about the numbers of hits for the Royals last. Sometimes they just fall in and it’s out of the pitchers’ control.

  • Bryan

    It’s all because Dave Eiland is on leave!

    Oh wait, he’s back now? I see…

    /A.J. Burnett’d