What Went As Expected: CC Sabathia

The Five Biggest Yankees Hits of 2011
Why Darvish makes sense for the Yankees

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to look back at what went right, what went wrong, and what went as expected during the 2011 campaign.

(AP Photo/Rob Carr)

There are few things in baseball than qualify as sure things, but CC Sabathia qualifies as a sure thing. The big left-hander can be counted for a plethora of high-quality innings year after year, and that’s exactly what he gave the Yankees in 2011. If you want to build a fun narrative, you can say Sabathia did it while performing with the pressure of having to be The Guy in a rotation that was full of question marks on Opening Day.

The season started with reports of weight loss, up to 30 lbs. thanks to a Captain Crunch-free diet. Sabathia cruised through Spring Training and opened the season with a win over Justin Verlander, holding the Tigers to two earned runs over six innings. He two-hit the Twins across seven scoreless next time out, then allowed one run in 5.2 IP to the Red Sox. CC finished the month of April with a 2.25 ERA in 40 IP, and he continued to pitch well into mid-June (3.39 ERA in 114 IP). Something seemed to click on June 25th, however.

Sabathia struck out nine Rockies across eight one-run innings that day, walking just one. Five days later he struck out 13 Brewers across 6.2 scoreless innings, tying his career high in strikeouts. Eleven whiffs in seven scoreless against the Indians followed that, then nine whiffs in a complete game shutout of the Rays followed that. On July 26th, Sabathia set a new career high with 14 strikeouts, flirting with a perfect game against the Mariners. From June 25th through July 26th, a span of seven starts, the big lefty allowed just five runs in 54.2 IP, striking out 72 and walking just 16. Opponents hit just .166/.232/.219 off him during those seven games. It was easily the best regular season stretch of his Yankees career.

That July 26th game against the Mariners featured a pair of rain delays, the first in the sixth inning (about 30 minutes) and the second in the eighth inning (about 14 minutes). Sabathia walked three batters in a row after the second delay, giving way to David Robertson in the eventual win. CC seemed to struggle with his control within the strike zone the rest of the season, because he still wasn’t walking anyone, just giving up a ton of hits. Sabathia allowed exactly ten hits in four of his next ten starts, plus nine and seven hits in the other two. He was still piling up a ton of strikeouts (45 in 42.1 IP) and not walking anyone (just five), but the hits were falling in and his homerun rate (six homers through his first 168.2 IP) had started to regress (nine in those 42.1 IP, including five solo shots by the Rays on August 12th).

(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Sabathia stumbled to the finish, with a 4.30 ERA and a .314/.358/.502 opponent’s batting line through his final nine starts. Some blame it on the rain delay game, some blame it on his increasing weight, some blame it on the six-man rotation used in the second half, and some blame it on something else entirely. The ALDS was a total mess, Game One was postponed due to rain after an inning and a half, then CC lost to Verlander three days later in the “new” Game Three. He was one of many relievers to come out of the bullpen in Game Five as well. All told, Sabathia allowed six runs in 8.2 IP against the Tigers, uncharacteristically walking eight while striking out eleven. The Yankees lost the series in five, and that was that.

Despite the slow finish, 2011 was Sabathia’s best season in pinstripes. His strikeout rate (8.72 K/9) was the second best of his career, his walk rate (2.31 BB/9) was the third best of his career, his ground ball rate (46.6%) was the third best of his career, and his homerun rate (0.64 HR/9) was the best of his career. After three straight years of enjoying sub-.300 BABIPs, he had to live with a .318 mark in 2011. Sabathia logged 237.1 IP (!) during the regular season, his fifth (!!) straight season over 230 IP (!!!). Only twice all year did he fail to complete at least six innings in a start, and both times he went 5.2 IP.

Whether you prefer bWAR or fWAR, this was the second best season of Sabathia’s career (6.9 bWAR and 7.1 fWAR), trailing only that monster 2008 campaign with the Indians and Brewers (7.1 and 7.6, respectively). His 3.00 ERA was the best by a Yankees starter since David Cone in 1997 (2.82), and his 8.71 K/9 was the best since Roger Clemens in 2002 (9.50). He also became the first Yankee to throw 230+ IP in three straight seasons since Ed Figueroa (1976-1978). This is nothing new for Sabathia though, he’s spoiled us by being this great since the day he signed his contract, a contract he will inevitably opt-out of a few days after the end of the World Series.

The Five Biggest Yankees Hits of 2011
Why Darvish makes sense for the Yankees
  • Doc Holliday

    Reports from Buster are that CC and the Yanks are getting further and further apart. The Yankees need to strong arm CC and not the other way around. Tell him if he wants to walk and uproot his family again then he can walk. We’ll get WS game 1 starter CJ Wilson and Darvish instead.

    • Foghorn Leghorn

      I’m sure Buster is just filling dead air with crap stories. Just like Heyman yesterday when he was saying the Red Sox have all the leverage with the Theo talks.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        We see this every offseason with different players. Reports of them being far apart, then reports of how there’s no way [Player X] will be coming back, then reports about how talks have been rekindled … same thing every winter.

        • Foghorn Leghorn

          My dad reminds me all the time…when he was a kid..and even up through the 60s…the baseball season ended and you pretty much didn’t hear a peep until spring training started. This is a product of 365/24/7 world we live in.

      • Frank

        His best season! You’ve got to be joking. The guy won what 2 games since the beginning of August, flopped in the division series and couldn’t beat the Red Sox all season. The one game he beat them he was out of the game by the 6th and threw 120+ pitches. You’ve hyped CC way too much and never called him out even once for his mediocre performance over the past 2 months of the season. Should he opt out, I pray Cash has the sense to call this guys bluff and say good riddance. CC is not worth more $$ and certainly not more years. I don’t care how desperate the Yanks are for pitching. His best days are behing him. He’s already guaranteed $23M per year for his remaining 4 years. He shouldn’t get a penny more.

    • Urban

      Pay no attention to anything being reported in the media during negotiations. I doubt there are even negotiations going on at this time so I have no idea how they could be getting “further and further” apart. That implies negotiations have been ongoing, yet the Yankees season just ended ten days ago, CC has not opted out, Cashman their GM has yet to sign, and organizational meetings have just started. Under all that, how could they be getting “further and further” apart?

  • Johnny O

    He may not have had the completely dominant season of Grienke 2009, King Felix last year or Verlander this year, but he’s been better than all over the last three years. I think he gets overlooked because he’s so consistent and he’s spoiled Yankees fans. Anyone who wants to let CC leave when he opts out needs to look at what he’s done for the Yankees and over his career. I’d sign up for 5 years/$135M right now.

    Can’t wait to hear trolling about how his amazing season doesn’t matter because “lost the ALDS”.

    • Foghorn Leghorn

      amazing that a man of CC’s girth can get overlooked. Funn you Grienke and Verlander both didn’t pitch that great in the post season. And, Felix will never see October baseball while playing in Seattle

    • http://yankeeanalysts.com Matt Imbrogno

      If we’re looking at the runs per game stats, Verlander only beat CC in ERA (2.40 to 3.00). Sabathia had a better FIP (2.88 to 2.99) and xFIP (3.02 to 3.12). Verlander did pitch more innings and had better K/BB rates, but the notion that Verlander was miles ahead of everyone this year is definitely misguided.

      • Kosmo

        Certainly Verlander was the more consistent pitcher for the entire season. Sabathia faded down the stretch. I haven´t read much into this but Sabathia enjoyed 5.74 run support to Verlander´s 4.73.

        • Foghorn Leghorn

          Dollars to Dog Turds CC’s stats mimic Verlander’s if CC pitches in the AL central and vicie versie!

      • CP

        the notion that Verlander was miles ahead of everyone this year is definitely misguided.

        Of course, but no one cares about that. CC actually beat Verlander in fWAR this year – mainly because he allowed fewer home runs and more ground balls.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          In a tougher division and ballpark!

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Until we hear what the Yankees are offering and what he’s looking for, we’ll just be throwing numbers around. Would 5/135 do it? Is he looking for 7/??? Are the Yankees willing to go more than 5 years? I’m anxious to hear actual numbers of some kind. I can see the Yankees allowing him to walk if he’s unwilling to accept an offer slightly higher than what Cliff Lee received. The money freed up if he left allows the Yankees to take a number of different approaches going forward, which may or may not include persuing Darvish, Wilson, or the crop of top pitchers that hit the FA market after the 2012 season.

  • The Golden Thong

    Too bad he sucks in the post-season.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Back again, eh?

      • Johnny O

        Mike do you think comments like this are serious or sarcastic, or just baiting other commenters? Obviously sarcasm is tough to determine over the internet but as I start to get worked up over assinine comments like this I just take a deep breath and assume (hope) they’re being sarcastic, or they’re just baiting people so there’s no point in responding.

        • Foghorn Leghorn

          I’m not a trained blogger like Mike is but I can tell you that 99.7866% of the time these posts are from haters, alters, or writers like Heyman or Olney that have nothing better to do while they are sitting in their hotel room waiting for a story to develop.

          • MannyGeee

            well… I think I didnt carry the 5 or something, but I calculated that 99.99999999999% of the time these posts are from haters, alters, or writers like Heyman or Olney

            • Dave B

              The more we respond the more we invite posts from imbeciles.

    • Foghorn Leghorn

      did you just call Mutt and Merloni?

    • http://www.twitter.com/jordansmed JGS

      I bet you think Justin Verlander is awesome. And you would be right, he is. But he still has a 5.57 ERA in 42 postseason innings.

      • Foghorn Leghorn

        I know its a shocker, but even all world Josh Beckett has struggled recently in the post season.

        • S

          Struggled to get that chicken stuffed beer gut through the ticketgates.

          • Foghorn Leghorn

            If I were running the BoSox I would approach either KFC or Popeyes to take the place of that Citgo gas station ad at Fenway. Might as well make this whole chicken eatin’ thing a source of profits!

            • http://www.thefatladyblog.com JoshTFL

              Not at Fenway. It’s in Kenmore Square. A nice, big KFC sign over the Monster would be superb, though.

  • Bubba

    I hope that Buster is just speculating on a hypothesis, because a 6 or 7 year extension/new contract scares the bejesus out of me. Five years should be amenable to both parties along with a small bump in dollars

    • JobaWockeeZ

      Hell make it 30 million per year if you could avoid 6 or 7 years…

      • Foghorn Leghorn

        yep…the longer contract is a bigger risk than the $$.

        • nsalem

          Would it not be advantageous to give him 25 million for 6 years than 30 million for 5?

  • Tipsie

    Mike, what’s your prediction on the extension? 6 for 150?

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    My offer: 26mil a year for 5 (150 mil total) with 2 team options. One more mil a year than Lee because he is younger and better than Lee and because he has to pitch in the toughest division in baseball.

    • Jose M. Vazquez..

      Oops I just realized that 150 mil translates to 30 mil per year. Let’s leave it at 26mil per year (130) or as the gentleman above said 136 for 5yrs. My bad.

  • http://www.thefatladyblog.com JoshTFL

    This was arguably CC’s best season. When you take his ’08 into account, Only five of his seventeen NL starts were against teams over .500. Had he not been on an extra day’s rest, he could’ve surpassed his ’08 fWAR. Furthermore, he had his career best FIP this season. Whatever it takes, I say.