Winning Sabathia’s Starts


(Winslow Towson/AP)

Marco Scutaro’s two-run double in the seventh inning Sunday night marked the first point in the series when I comfortably thought that either team was going to win a game. Before that no lead felt safe, because the pitching had been so haphazard. But with Josh Beckett mowing down Yankee after Yankee, the game certainly felt over. My first thought after that was, “Great, another loss in a CC start.” There’s not much the big man could have done about it, since the offense didn’t provide even the minimum one run required to win any game. But it was a disappointment nonetheless. Those CC starts are of great importance to the Yankees this year.

The Yankees clearly share this view of their workhorse ace. Last Tuesday we saw Girardi go to Rafael Soriano in the eighth inning of a four-run game after Soriano had pitched the previous day. This isn’t too out of the ordinary, but it’s not something we’re used to seeing. For whatever reason, the setup man/closer cutoff comes at three runs. With a four-run lead in the eighth we’re far more likely to see Robertson or Chamberlain take the mound. But Girardi clearly wasn’t going to take a four-run lead for granted. Hence, his setup man takes the hill to protect it. That is, he took the mound to protect the lead in a Sabathia start.

That move, of course, backfired in the worst possible way. Soriano had nothing that night, and the Twins took full advantage. It spoiled a CC win in a game that the Yankees absolutely should have won. It’s akin to Sabathia throwing seven strong against Boston last May, only to have the bullpen, and Marcus Thames, completely blow the ending. Yes, there’s plenty of time to recover from it. But with an expected tight race with the Red Sox this season, the Yankees need to hold on in those situations, especially when Sabathia takes the hill.

Still, it’s too early to get too worked up about the Yankees losing two out of three Sabathia starts. After all, last year they dropped two of his first five, and six of his first 11. In that context, two of the first three doesn’t seem that bad. But in another way, with the Yankees’ rotation concerns coming to fruition, it becomes a bigger concern. Last year the Yankees had A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes pitching well in the first two months. This year they might have Burnett, but without Pettitte and with a shaky, at best, Hughes, winning CC’s starts becomes even more important.

Right now we’ve basically seen one instance where the Yankees failed to hold a lead for Sabathia, and another where they failed to support him with adequate runs. The only game they won for him, really, was the one in which he pitched the poorest. (You can make an argument for last night, but the only damage the Sox did was constantly singling up the middle.) Surely this will get better. It did in both 2009 and 2010, when Sabathia was almost unbeatable from June forward. But this season the early games mean a bit more, because of the relatively weaker supporting cast. There is no such thing as a must-win at this point in the season; there really won’t be until September. But when Sabathia takes the mound this weekend against the Rangers, the Yankees have to come out and support their ace. He’s their key to another AL East crown.

Categories : Musings
  • NHyankeesfan

    I feel bad for CC. He’s battled his way through 3 starts without his best stuff or control and has an 0-1 record to thank him for it

    • The Fallen Phoenix

      Reminds me of Mike Mussina, circa 2001. The Yankees couldn’t score runs for him, either – even on nights when he was making bids to pitch a perfect game.

  • Karl Krawfid

    He’ll be aight.

    Keep that era low. Get that CY young. Get that 150 million. CC will be happy.

  • Poopy Pants

    Everyone keeps saying (in the threads on RAB) ‘It’s only April and these games aren’t important’.
    I guess it doesn’t matter as long as they start winning games by September, right???

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

      Everyone keeps saying (in the threads on RAB) ‘It’s only April and these games aren’t important’.

      Really? Where are they saying that?

      I see a lot of people saying “It’s only April, you shouldn’t panic about whatever it is you’re panicking about” or some variation thereof, but I don’t think people are actually saying the games aren’t important.

      People are saying the games aren’t as important as some overreacting people are making them. (Which would be equally true about those games in September, btw.) But that’s not the same as saying the games aren’t important at all.

      • CS Yankee

        If a tree falls in the forest & nobody is there to hear a sound, does it make a sound?

      • Ted Nelson


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


  • CS Yankee

    Might be alright if he doesn’t get the credit for the “W” this year. Is he less likely to walk with a 12-15 record or a 22-6 record?

    W-L is old school but most of the market rewards old school. His ERA won’t stay this low all year and I’m sure he’ll get close to/at 20. There is no place else that he has a better shot at winning 20 & a ring each year…the bats lead baseball and two of the best three closers are there for him every start. The defensive looks horrible to me this year though (I know SSS)…Teix, Jeter, Cano spent too much time looking at their gold gloves (they all look meh so far).

    • Ted Nelson

      Could bring down his value a little bit, but probably not too much. Also, you’d rather him not get the W but the team still get a W…

      Jeter was bad defensively last season too, so I don’t think the GG has anything to do with it. Painful to watch balls that it seems like literally any other SS would get to squeak past Jeter.
      Likewise the defense overall was pretty average last season, so I wouldn’t expect a huge improvement. Martin at C and no Thames, otherwise it’s largely the same squad.

  • The209

    these games are at least as important as late-season games, imo

    • Ted Nelson

      Yep… each of the 162 is as important as the other 161. The problem arises when people ascribe too much importance to early season games because it’s all we have to go on this season. Having a 5-4 stretch in July or August counts the same as a 5-4 stretch in April, but since all we have right now is 5-4 people get too worked up. They start writing about how 9 games means the line-up should change (perhaps it should change, but not because of those 9 games) or how blowing a lead in a CC start is worse than blowing a lead in someone else’s start…

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

        They start writing about how 9 games means the line-up should change (perhaps it should change, but not because of those 9 games) or how blowing a lead in a CC start is worse than blowing a lead in someone else’s start…

        Man, Ted’s a little snippy this year.