CC Sabathia vs. The Red Sox

Losing Al Aceves
Past Trade Review: Robin Ventura
(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The Yankees will be in Fenway Park tonight for their final road series against the Red Sox tonight, and they’ll have their ace on the mound. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last for months, you’re well aware that CC Sabathia has yet to beat Boston this year, a big part of the reason why the Yankees have lost ten of twelve to their biggest rivals. He’s 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA against the Sox but 17-3 with a 2.40 ERA against everyone else.

In his four starts against Boston this year, Sabathia has given up 20 runs in 25 innings. He has given the team length, failing to complete at least six innings just once (his first start on April 10th, when he went 5.2 IP), and his FIP (~3.70) looks a lot better than that ERA, but 20 runs in 25 IP is 20 runs in 25 IP. Here’s the weird thing though: 15 of those 20 runs have been scored in just three innings. Look…

April 10th: one run in 5.2 IP overall
May 14th: two runs in six innings, then a four-run seventh
June 9th: six scoreless innings, then a seven-run seventh
August 6th: five-run third inning, but two runs in five innings otherwise

That June 9th game is particularly annoying. Sabathia cruised through the first six innings on just 82 pitches, allowing just two singles and two walks while striking out five and getting six other outs on the ground. He then gave up six hits to the next eight batters and allowed four runs to score before giving way to David Robertson. Robertson allowed all three of the runners he inherited to score before recording the final out of the inning. How often does that happen? As I said, annoying*.

The three big innings, one in each of his last three starts against Boston, suggest an anomaly more than anything. Sabathia’s never had trouble beating the Red Sox before, going 4-2 with a 3.04 ERA and a ~3.30 FIP in eight starts against them in 2009 and 2010, and it would have been 5-2 had the bullpen not coughed up a four-run lead in the eighth inning of this game last May. The Yankees are 5-3 in those eight starts, and it would be 6-2 if not for that bullpen meltdown. The “can’t beat Boston!” shtick is isolated to 2011.

Sabathia’s been just a little off with his command in his last five starts, giving up 46 hits and eight homers in 36.1 IP. His strikeout (35) and walk (five) totals are still stellar, but he’s been just a bit less awesome than usual. Obviously the Red Sox offense will be a tough matchup with or without his usual command, but hopefully he manages to avoid that one big inning tonight. That’s been the biggest problem for Sabathia against Boston this year, bar none.

* I seem to remember some defensive funny business in another one of the big innings as well, but it’s honestly not worth the effort to confirm.

Losing Al Aceves
Past Trade Review: Robin Ventura

    Remember what Vince Lombardi said: “If you lose, you’re out of the family.”

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      It’s interesting that in those four starts against Boston, the Yankees scored a collective 7 runs (two shutouts, 3 runs in the third, 4 runs in the 4th).

      Sabathia could have pitched well instead of poorly and still been 0-4 against Boston this year.

      Would Yankee fans still be freaking out if Sabathia was 0-4 with a 3.20 ERA instead of 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA?

      (Answer: Of course they would.)

      • gc

        Which is why I’m far more concerned with seeing our BATS come alive in this series than anything happening with our starters. (i’d love for both to do well, but it bothers me that our lineup hasn’t really put it together against them much this year)

        • Jerome S.

          I have a feeling that whenever the Yankees play Boston this year, they suddenly get crappy. Everyone’s a bit hacky, the defense looks awful and the pitching is pretty terrible.

          Just what I’ve seen.

      • Rainbow Connection

        This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read.

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Pot, meet kettle.

  • Brian S.

    Boston didn’t have the offense they do now the last two years. Maybe that has something to do with it. But he should have won on that June 9th start, he got BABIP’d to hell in that inning.

    • CP

      Boston didn’t have the offense they do now the last two years.

      Here are the runs per game for the Red Sox over the last 3 seasons:

      2011: 5.4 R/G
      2010: 5.0 R/G
      2009: 5.4 R/g

      Their offense was down somewhat last year (probably due to the injuries), but it’s no better this year than it was in 2009.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        2009 was a different run environment than 2011, though. With scoring down leaguewide, a 5.4 R/G is way more impressive now than it was two years ago.

        The 2011 Sox are sporting a .352 wOBA, good for 118 wRC+. Two years ago, their identical team .352 wOBA was only good for 108 wRC+.

        • CP

          The run environment doesn’t really matter for this, though. We’re comparing CC giving up an ERA of (roughly) 3 in 2009-2010 to an ERA of over 7 in 2011. The run environment would basically be a rounding error on top of that.

          Also, it’s not 100% clear (at least I haven’t seen anything about it) whether offense is getting worse or pitching is getting better.

          • Ted Nelson

            Yeah, would seem that runs/game doesn’t have to be weighted since ERA isn’t weighted.

          • JobaWockeeZ

            Uh yes it does matter when we’re making statements like…”Their offense was down somewhat last year (probably due to the injuries), but it’s no better this year than it was in 2009.”

            • CP

              As far as their ability to score runs is concerned, that statement is true, and we’re really talking about scoring runs here, right?

              The only debatable part is how much of the 2010 decline was due to better league wide pitching or injuries or normal fluctuations in performance.

        • JobaWockeeZ

          Yup exactly. But still you don’t even need wOBA just look at the triple slash…

          • Ted Nelson

            That doesn’t seem relevant to discussing CC’s change in performance against them. Same pitcher, same offensive production in an average game, worse results ERA for the pitcher.

      • Rainbow Connection

        CC was also less fat and old in 2009.

  • Jerome S.

    One mountain hike and a power outage I’m back.


    Isn’t this one of those situations where “if you take out the times he’s been bad, he’s been great!”? I mean when you think about it, most starters are prone to big innings as opposed to a slow bleed over an entire game. I’m sure that if we examined A.J Burnett similarly he wouldn’t look so bad, right?

    I’m kind of conjecturing here, so I could be wrong.

    • Billy Pilgrim

      You’re right. He always gets on people for using the “well if you take out this slump he’s been an all star.” You can’t pick and choose which stats to present. CC’s gotta throw a good game from start to finish tonight and beat Lackey. Last time he never even gave us a chance.

      • Jerome S.

        CC’s gotta throw a good game from start to finish tonight and beat Lackey.

        I agree with your general point, but that’s overstating it a bit, no? CC should throw a good game for us tonight, and it’d be quite re-assuring if he did, but I don’t think he has to.

    • Ted Nelson

      You have a point, but this is a really small sample where the volatility is huge. A little bad luck may be a big part of the explanation and correct itself over time.

      • Jerome S.

        That’s also true. But to your point, CC could have been legitimately awful over those four starts, and it still wouldn’t matter, would it?

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    just like a night with a cheap hooker, the yanks need to score early and often…

    beat up that butt faced Lackey!


      Wait, is Lackey Jeter’s rebound girl?

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    I can’t remember all of the plays from CCs starts against the Sox this year, but it does seem like the lefties have got to him.

    Keep Elderberry off base, strike out Agonz and Big Poopie…and dammnit, don’t let Varitek beat you! Recipe for success!

  • Evan3457

    The reason why the Yanks are trouble scoring consistently against the Sox seems simple. Beckett has dominated them, and he’s started at least one game in each series, allowing 3 ER in 27 innings, K/BB of 30/7, only 16 H and 2 HR. In addition, Papelbon has pitched 6 times vs. them, saving 4 and not blowing a game yet. Sox’ team ERA for the rest of the staff vs. the Yanks is 4.63.

    Beckett starts the 2nd game vs. Hughes; Lester the 3rd game vs. AJ. Doesn’t seem promising to me, and if CC can’t beat Lackey, another sweep seem likely.

    • mike

      i remember Paps being a little shaky, no?

    • Bartolo’s Colon

      let’s face it, we can’t be successful against papelbon without marcus thames and a healthy a-rod, that game was awesome

  • Bronx Byte

    Burnett will fold like a cheap suit in the 3rd game. I won’t watch what the inevitable will be and manage to stay busy otherwise and either find out how bad he got slaughtered from the overnight news or the newspaper in the morning and read all about the same tired, worn out shit excuses from him and Girardi about turning things around.

    • mike

      hopefully this is Girardi/Cashman’s challange to Burnett – big game, big pressure, playoff atmosphere – whereupon if he sh*ts the bed they can look him in the eye as they move him to the pen/off the ALDS roster after say they gave him every opportunity to succeed

      • Oscar Gamble’s Fro

        It’s actually kinda messed up that part of me is hoping that AJ just completely shits the bed so we don’t have to worry about any chance of seeing him in any meaningful situation again this year. I mean, I should totally be rooting for a complete game shut out, and I guess when it comes right down to it I totally am, but I still can see having a feeling like: “Fuck, this means he’s gonna get more shots.” It’s kind of an odd feeling to have, but he’s been so bad and I have so little confidence in him, I just have no faith in him legitimately turning it around.

        (I also wrote a post a few months ago killing Girardi for suggesting that Jeter could hit .320 the rest of the way after he got 3,000. Moral of the story? What the fuck do I know.)

      • CS Yankee

        You can hope in one hand and shit in the other, and in the end all you have is shit.

        Odds of AJ going 6 innings with three (or less) runs must be in the 50:1 range. Although those odds are better than ones chances at Lotto, I’m not that much of a gambler.

        AJ will likely go from the sixth starter to the 30th man once the roster can expand after Thursday.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      How about, if AJ pitches well you stop coming around here and making completely irrelevant comments on our thread. Burnett’s name is not mentioned once in this article. This is not your A.J. Burnett bitching board.

      • Oscar Gamble’s Fro

        Lots of names mentioned in the thread that aren’t mentioned once in the article. Get a grip.

        • Joe Pawlikowski

          Sorry if I’m sick of everything going back to AJ. This thread ain’t about him.

          • Oscar Gamble’s Fro

            Fair enough. I could see where you would get pissed, and you’re right the thread isn’t about him. I probably shoulda just kept my mouth shut.

  • UncleArgyle

    CC’s needs to step up and earn his pay check tonite. If he spits the bit again and the yankees lose, they’re most likely looking at a sweep. (Hughes and Brunett vs Beckett and Lester is a massive mismatch)

    • Jerome S.

      So much YCPB in dis.

  • Cuso

    For absolutely no reason in particular other than my gut feeling:

    I think CC goes at least 7 innings and gives up only 3 or fewer runs tonight.

    And if that’s not enough to win tonight, then it wouldn’t be CC that was the problem.

  • DZ

    I think people are really underrating Hughes, since he’s come back he’s been really good (minus the 2 A’s games). We obviously are at a disadvantage, but I wouldn’t count them out yet.

    • Oscar Gamble’s Fro

      Let’s discount 2 starts out of 8 where he got napalmed by one of the worst hitting teams in baseball and assume he’ll get the job done against one of the best hitting teams in baseball in one of the best parks to hit in? Do I have that right?

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      We obviously are at a disadvantage, but I wouldn’t count them out yet.

    • MattG

      Hughes has not been so good. His biggest problem, finishing hitters, is still often there. A pitcher could have decent results throwing 90 pitches in 5 innings with 3 swings-and-misses, but I wouldn’t go planning any parades.

      IIRC, he had one start in which he got pitches by hitters at an above average rate, and maybe one or two others that were sort of average. It hasn’t been awful either, but he’s not close to first half 2010 Phil.

  • Filppula51

    I wish russel Martin was in the line up tonight catching C.C instead of cervelli

  • Filppula51

    I wish russel Martin was in the line up tonight catching C.C instead of cervelli.

  • Woodrow Sweats

    what is with all the negativity? oh my gawd if CC doesn’t pitch a no hitter, we shouldn’t bother playing the next two games and it’d just be better to forfeit and take two rest days considering the schedule coming up. how about rooting for your team? how about rooting for CC to pitch lights out, like he’s capable of doing, and watching the game to see what happens? how about getting behind hughes and hoping he’s turned it around? how about praying that AJ doesn’t lay a stinker (I’ve only got SO much optimism)… but seriously… they’re the YANKEES! they’re 1.5 games behind the pre-season appointed world series champions, riding Colon’s stem cell boosted arm and sweaty freddy’s slop… they can make the playoffs with their eyes closed at this point, based on otherworldly performances from granderson, a huge resurgence from swish, zombie jeter and cano’s return to being cano… if all you want is to be happy, then just watch jones belt homers into upper deck levels that seem unfathomable… give it a rest, so i don’t have to read comments after every article complaining about this or that… the yankees just hit 3 grand slams in the same game, something that’s never happened before! ever! in the 12322342 years of MLB history! get a grip.

  • Xstar7

    Well now we can finally put this “CC can’t beat the Red Sox” narrative to rest.