What Went Right: CC Sabathia

Scouting The Trade Market: Logan Morrison
Possible Trade Partner: Minnesota Twins
(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Coming into the 2012 season, CC Sabathia was one of baseball’s few guarantees. Everyone knew he was going to throw a ton of high-quality innings just like he has every year for the last half-decade or so. Although this season was certainly a little rockier than Sabathia’s first three in pinstripes, the end result was the same. The big man again threw a ton of high-quality innings for his team.

The season started with a slow month of April, which isn’t completely out of character for Sabathia. He surrendered five runs in six innings to the Rays on Opening Day, and after four starts he owned 5.27 ERA (3.57 FIP) in 27.1 innings. CC turned things around in his fifth, sixth, and seventh starts, allowing two runs in eight innings each time. He held the Braves to two runs in a complete-game win in mid-June, completing a ten start stretch in which he pitched to a 2.92 ERA (3.02 FIP) in 72 innings.

Sabathia allowed five runs (one earned) in 5.2 innings against the Mets next time out, and soon after the start he was placed on the DL for the first time in six years. A minor left groin problem was the culprit, though both Sabathia and team insisted he would still be pitching if it was later in the season or in the playoffs. The DL stint was sandwiched around the All-Star break, so CC only missed two starts with the injury. He was activated on the first day eligible and returned with six shutout innings against the Blue Jays.

Sabathia made five starts after coming off the DL and didn’t seem right even though he wasn’t pitching terribly (3.89 ERA and 3.47 FIP in 34.2 innings). After allowing five runs (three earned) to the Tigers on August 8th, the Yankees placed their ace on the DL for the second time of the summer. Left elbow inflammation did him in this time, and it was the first arm-related DL stint of his career. The Yankees again insisted it was minor and Sabathia again spent the minimum 15 days on the sidelines. He threw 7.1 innings of one-run ball against the Indians in his first start back and everything seemed fine.


The next four starts were rough (4.67 ERA and 4.47 FIP in 27 innings) but Sabathia insisted his elbow was fine, or at least “good enough to pitch,” to use his words. With only three starts left in the year, CC owned a 3.63 ERA (3.41 FIP) in 176 innings and was in danger of throwing fewer than 200 innings in a season for the first time in six years. Instead, Sabathia ran off three straight dominant starts of exactly eight innings each to close out the year, finishing with exactly 200 innings. He struck out 28 in those three starts, allowing four runs on four walks, eleven singles, one double, and one homer.

Sabathia was able to carry that dominance into the ALDS against the Orioles, holding Baltimore to two runs in 8.2 innings in the Game One win. Only a two-out, ninth inning double by Lew Ford prevented him from finishing the game, though CC did get the complete-game win in the decisive Game Five. He allowed just one run on two walks and four singles in the series clincher, pitching out of a bases loaded, one-out jam in the eighth to preserve the two-run lead. His 17.2 total innings set a new ALDS record. Sabathia got rocked in Game Four of the ALCS (six runs in 3.2 innings) to end his (and the Yankees) season on a very sour note.

Obviously CC’s season did not go as smoothly as his first three in pinstripes given the two DL stints and his mid-season stretch of substandard pitching, but those are things we’re going to discuss a little later today. For now, we’re just going to focus on the fact that Sabathia again pitched to a near-3.00 ERA (3.38 to be exact) with stellar peripherals (3.33 FIP) in exactly 200 innings in what is generally considered a down year for him. That’s a career year for most pitchers. He showed a few kinks in the armor but otherwise gave the team exactly what it needed: tons of high-quality innings.

Scouting The Trade Market: Logan Morrison
Possible Trade Partner: Minnesota Twins
  • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

    I still don’t forgive Girardi for IBBing Sean Rodriguez in game one in front of Carlos Pena.

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      what a wimp!

  • http://none Ton Lon ton

    I don’t forgive joe torre for having kevin brown pitch in game 7 in 2004

  • Adam

    I dont think I can agree with this. He went to the DL twice and for a guy making 23 MILLION per year, his numbers were not that great. I am a lifelong Yankee fan but I am also a realist.

    I just do not see a good future for this team. I hope I am wrong but there is little to be excited about. Consider a scenario where Teixera’s numbers decline again, Jeter comes back to earth and puts up #’s that a 40 year old MI should, ARod is Arod, Granderson bats .230, etc.

    Sorry, just not a lot to like.

    BTW, trade Cano, and package prospects for young cost-controlled players with upside (LoMo, etc).

    Now let the flaming begin!

    • jjyank

      CC still pitched 200 innings, despite being on the DL twice. Let’s not pretend he was out for extended periods that cost him large chunks of the season. And you think his numbers were not that great, then you should probably re-evaluate your expectations and bring them back down to earth a bit.

      • LK

        I think it’s possible to acknowledge that CC had a very good season while not hiding from the fact that the elbow issues are extremely concerning and he seems to be on a downward trend. 2 DL-stints, even though they were short, is very troubling in the first year of a new contract. I’m not sure I’d put Sabathia firmly in either the “What Went Right” or “What Went Wrong” category, but there was a fair amount not to like here.

        • Mister D

          Only relative to peak CC did CC not go right. Still a top 10 starter, still reached 200 IP, despite injury.

        • jjyank

          Sure, but his numbers were still very good. I take issues with statements like “for a guy making 23 MILLION per year, his numbers were not that great.”

          That’s a load of crap, in my opinion.

          • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger


          • LK

            I agree. He was great; he just caused some justified worrying this year.

    • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

      LoMo doesn’t really have much upside…

      • vin

        But at least a team like the Marlins would love to have a guy like Cano. With him, they’re a virtual lock to get 75 wins next year.

        The only teams that would be interested in trading valuable young players for 1 year of Robinson Cano are the teams that will be in direct competition with the Yanks for the playoffs/WS.

        I think people who make these crazy trade proposals forget the that other team’s GM has to eventually stand in front of the media and answer why he made the trade. And the response, “well it makes the Yankees better” probably won’t fly.

        • Mike HC

          If the Yanks trade Cano for young players, the team we trade him too will almost surely not be “in direct competition with the Yanks for the playoffs/WS” because the Yanks will no longer being competing for a WS.

          • vin

            Ah excellent point.

            And as we all know, the Yanks aren’t going to punt the chance at the playoffs.

      • Will the Real MP Please Stand Up

        Did you start watching baseball this year? You’re talking about a guy who, in the minors, hit well enough at 1st bar to be a top 20 prospect. He has great plate discipline, makes contact often, and has real plus power. There’s certainly upside there. Not that I’d drop any great prospects for him, but I’d certainly take him.

  • Mike HC

    Nice write up. Definitely have to put CC in the “what went right” category, but it was probably his worst season in pinstripes so far and worst season of his last 7-8 years.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Maybe he should be in the “What Went As Expected” category. A very solid season, but that’s exactly what we expect him to do.

  • Anthony

    With the anemic offense we had this postseason, CC was basically the reason we advanced to the ALCS. People see “ace” pitchers like JV and Price and then expect our “ace” to perform the same. Tons of teams would have loved what CC gave us this year, even if it wasn’t his best.

    • Will the Real MP Please Stand Up

      If CC pitched in Comerica against the AL Central offenses, I have a feeling he could put up numbers in Verlander territory. Price is just younger and therefore certainly a bit better, but he also gets park help. Not to say CC is as good as or better than either, but he’s not far behind.

  • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

    CC has been worth every cent he’s been paid so far. He’s the least of the Yankees problems and I’d take 4 more like him any day of the week for my rotation.

    • Captain

      this. you couldn’t have asked for a better first 4 years from a big FA pitcher than what the Yankees have received from CC. even including this “down” year.