Better or Worse: Pitching Edition

Yesterday I made some predictions on whether Yankee batters would do better or worse in 2011 than in 2010, today I’ll go through the pitchers.

CC Sabathia

2010:  21-7, 3.18 ERA, 3.54 FIP

2011: At this point Sabathia is who he is, I would expect a very similar season in 2011.  He’s going to throw a ton of good to great innings and win a ton of games.  Expect more of the same next year, which of course is a great thing.  CC is an ace in every sense of the word.

Andy Pettitte

2010:  11-3, 3.28 ERA, 3.85 FIP

2011: Assuming he comes back, I don’t expect Pettitte to pitch as well in 2011 as he did in 2010, though if healthy he could certainly bring more to the team.  The 129 innings he pitched were the lowest of his Yankee career.  I don’t think he’ll pitch to a 3.28 ERA again, but if he can make 30 starts and put up a season similar to his 2009 he’ll be better for the Yankees in the long run.

Phil Hughes

2010: 18-8, 4.19 ERA, 4.25 FIP

2011:  Unlike CC and Andy, there is reason to believe he could improve greatly in 2010.  As positive as his 2010 was, there is plenty of room for improvement.  He may not win 18 games again, but he’ll likely be better.  He went through some growing pains that all young pitchers go through and hopefully he learns from them.  I also think that Hughes’ mindset may be a little different in 2011 knowing that there is no innings limit on the season, nor will he be on as strict pitch counts (20 of 29 starts were less than 105) within games.  Removing these chains could certainly help him grow.  And please Phil, hit a batter next year.

A.J. Burnett

2010: 10-15, 5.26 ERA, 4.83 FIP

2011:  Burnett has to get better in 2011, right?  I expect he will.  While the hiring of Larry Rothschild as pitching coach is a positive, Burnett’s success will depend primarily on himself.  There was no major injury to explain his poor season, and as inconsistent as he has been throughout his career, at the end of every season his line looked ok. Clearly this wasn’t the case in 2010.  One area of slight concern is that his fastball velocity did drop 1 MPH to 93.2 from 2009 to 2010, his 3rd straight year of decline and well off his career norms.  Since he’s essentially a two pitch pitcher, any further drop in velocity could be deadly.

David Robertson

2010: 3.82 ERA, 3.58 FIP

2011: Robertson finished the year strong (playoffs aside) and we were all confident when he came in, but it’s easy to forget he got off to a horrible start.  I think 2011 he puts it together and has a strong year start to finish as the primary setup man (assuming Joba is traded).  If Joba is still here I think Robertson sticks to the fireman role which he has been so great at the past few years (OPS is 107 points lower with runners on, which is good because he walks so many guys).

Mariano Rivera

2010: 1.80 ERA, 2.81 FIP

2011:  Every year there are a ton of prognosticators who predict this is the year Rivera will age.  Every year they are all wrong.  Of course they all keep saying it, so one time they might be right.  I certainly won’t be making that prediction.  In his last 8 years Rivera has had an ERA over 2 just once.  Why would I predict otherwise?  In 2011 it’ll be another year of dominance for the ageless Mo.

Cliff Lee*

2010: 12-9, 3.18 ERA, 2.58 FIP

2011:  Of course this is dependant on Lee signing with the Yankees, but I would expect a little worse season out of Lee in 2011.  Many players struggle their first year in pinstripes, though it was promising that the last big free agent class certainly bucked the trend.  Lee seems to have the composure and attitude required for pitching in the Bronx without being affected, but we won’t really know until he gets here.  I’m sure his record will be better, but pitching a full year in Yankee Stadium and the AL East could hurt his other (important) stats.  He’ll be great, but maybe not quite as great as he was this year.

As this will be my last post at RAB, I want to thank Ben, Mike, and Joe for the opportunity to write here for the past 6 months as I truly have had a blast doing it.  I also want to thank the readers for reading and commenting on my posts, both those who agreed and disagreed with me as I took a lot from both sides.  The community of Yankee fans on this site is second to none and I am glad to be a part of it.

Better or Worse: Hitting Edition

Today and tomorrow I’m going to take a look at some core Yankees and whether I think they will be better or worse in 2011 than they were in 2010.  I’ll start with the hitters today, come back tomorrow as I review the pitchers.

Jorge Posada

2010: .248/.357/.454, .357 wOBA, 18 HR.

2011 Outlook:  As a full time DH that is certainly a line we can live with from Posada.  Despite his advanced age I think he has a shot to improve on that line as he won’t have the same wear and tear he did as a full time catcher.  While the final line was a little subpar for Posada, it’s easy to forget he was OPS’ing over 1.000 heading into June (though with limited time due to injury).  The one issue I could see is that Posada will have trouble adjusting to the DH position as many players have in the past (and he has struggled in 90 games as the DH in his career).  Overall I expect a slightly better performance from Jorge if he is, as expected, the full time DH.

Mark Teixeira

2010: .256/.365/.481, .367 wOBA, 33 HR.

2011 Outlook:  2010 was the worst year of Tex’ career since his rookie season.  He’s turning 31 just after Opening Day so there’s no age related concerns.  He’ll be better next year than he was this year, book it.

Robinson Cano

2010: .319/.381/.534, .389 wOBA, 29 HR

2011:  I can’t see Cano improving much on his 2010, it was truly a special season, but if he can sustain his walk rate he just might do it again next year.  His BABIP on the year was consistent with his career levels, his power was very similar to his 2009 season and he continues to remain healthy.  I would guess he’ll have a slight regression in 2011 but still put up the second best season of his career.  If the walk rate sustains or even improves though, look out.

Derek Jeter

2010: .270/.340/.370, .320 wOBA, 10 HR

2011:  While Jeter’s age is working against him I expect (hope) him to improve in 2011.  While I don’t know if he’ll return to his 2009 level ever again, I think he can definitely be better in the next few years than he was in 2010.  I guess somebody should have told him it’s a contract year.  Seriously though I think he’ll improve, but he’ll be 37 in June so there’s no guarantee.  Players like Jeter have fallen of a cliff before, let’s hope he doesn’t for a few more seasons.

Alex Rodriguez

2010: .271/.341/.506, .363 wOBA, 30 HR

2011:  While A-Rod’s 2010 was great, it was pretty poor based on the insane standards he has set.  He’s regressed every year since his monster 2007 but I’d expect a little bit of a bounce back in 2011.  He may never bat .300 or slug .600 again, but I would expect him to get on base at a better clip than he did this year.  The good news is he continues to move further away from his serious hip injury but the bad news is that he’s getting up there in age.  I don’t think he’ll be an MVP candidate, but he’ll be better.

Brett Gardner

2010: .277/.383/.379, .358 wOBA, 47 steals

2011: Gardner did all that could have been asked of him in 2010.  I do worry that what we saw last year was pretty close to his ceiling though.  If he can plateau there for a few years I’ll be thrilled, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him regress to the .265/.350/.360 range next year. While I don’t advocate trading Gardner I certainly would see what his value is on the trade market.

Curtis Granderson

2010: .247/.324/.468, .346 wOBA, 24 HR

2011:  Aside from his big early season homerun off Jonathan Papelbon, Granderson was a disappointment for quite a while with both ineffectiveness and injury.  It also didn’t help that while Granderson was struggling, Austin Jackson was off to a great start in Detroit.  Once Granderson took a few days off in the summer to work with Kevin Long however, he turned it on in a big way.  Something clearly clicked (some may even say #cured) and I expect big things from Granderson next year.

Nick Swisher

2010: .288/.359/.491, .377 wOBA, 29 HR

2011:  As we all know, Swisher seemed to substitute some walks for hits this year on his way to one of the best seasons of his career.  Swisher, aside from his one year in Chicago has been pretty consistent throughout his career so I would expect something similar in 2011.  I don’t see him getting a lot better than this year, nor do I see him getting worse.

What Went Right: Berkman & Wood

The Yankees have made a habit out of plugging holes at the trade deadline when their internal options don’t work out, most famously grabbing Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston Jr. to shore up the bench for the 2009 World Series run. This season was no different, as Brian Cashman pulled off a trio of moves on July 31st. Austin Kearns didn’t exactly work out, but the other two moves certainly did…

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Lance Berkman

Once the Nick Johnson experiment failed in glorious fashion, the Yankees spent the better part of the summer searching for a designated hitter. Jorge Posada filled in most of the time, partly due to nagging injuries and partly because Joe Girardi fell head over heels in love with Frankie Cervelli. Alex Rodriguez and Marcus Thames also chipped in some at DH from time to time, but it was obvious that the team needed a full-time DH going forward.

With the Astros way out of contention, long-time ‘Stro Lance Berkman agreed to waive his no-trade clause to join his buddy Andy Pettitte in New York and have a shot at the World Series. His first 40 plate appearances in pinstripes were largely unimpressive, a .281 wOBA that was reliant more on walks that anything else. Berkman sprained his ankle running out a ground ball in Kansas City and sat out the rest of the month, rejoining the team when the rosters expanded on September 1st.

From that point on, Fat Elvis looked a lot like the guy with four career top five finishes in the NL MVP voting. He hit .299 the rest of the way with a cool .400 on-base percentage, and although there was little (if any) power production, Berkman was reaching base at the terrific rate near the bottom of the lineup. He was then one of the few consistently productive bats in the postseason, driving in two runs in Game Two of the ALDS and replacing the injured Mark Teixeira at first base in the ALCS. All told, Berkman hit .313/.368/.688 (.427 wOBA) in the postseason, and once he came off the disabled list in September he was one of the team’s most productive bats.

Kerry Wood

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

It’s hard to believe that when the Yankees acquired Wood, he hadn’t pitched off a big league mound in close to three weeks. He had been on the disabled list with blisters and was activated just in time for the transaction to go through. That was also his second stint on the DL of the year, as he missed the first five weeks of the season with shoulder issues. Wood actually threw more innings for the Yankees (26) than he did for the Indians (20) this year. Thankfully those 26 innings were high quality.

Wood began his Yankee career working various middle relief stints, often recording more than three outs. By the time September rolled around he had pitched his way into that all important eighth inning role, setting up Mariano Rivera for the remained of the regular season plus postseason. The full body of work featured a 10.7 K/9 and just two runs scored in those 26 innings, and in the playoffs he added another eight innings of two run ball. With the season on the line in Game Five of the ALCS, he threw two scoreless inning to bridge the gap between starter CC Sabathia and Mo in the ninth.

As good as Wood was with New York, let’s not kid ourselves, there was some luck involved. His .235 BABIP was about 50 points below his career mark, and his strand rate was a completely unsustainable 98.1%. League average is around 72%. He walked 18 guys in those 26 innings but just one (one!) came around to score. They say it’s better to be lucky than good, especially when it comes to bullpen, so Kerry Wood’s stint in pinstripes gets a A+.

* * *

Both Berkman and Wood were popular players with their previous teams, but they accepted lesser roles with the Yankees and thrived. I thought Berkman was especially impressive; a guy that had spent his entire career hitting in the middle of the Houston’s lineup and was the toast of his hometown, accepting what was essentially a platoon DH role when he could have just stayed home close to his family. The Yankees didn’t reach their ultimate goal this season, but the contributions of Lance Berkman and Kerry Wood are certainly appreciated.

What Went Right: Phil Hughes

Other than winning the World Series, there’s perhaps nothing more enjoyable in baseball than watching a young player come into his own. At least for me, anyway. The Yankees and their fans witnessed just that in 2010, when Phil Hughes made the jump from being a prospect to a bonafide big leaguer.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

It all started back in 2009 really, when the team shifted Hughes to the bullpen because at the time they had six starters for five rotation spots. It was either the minors or the bullpen, and unsurprisingly Phil chose the bullpen. He dominated the rest of the season and emerged as Mariano Rivera‘s primary setup man, showing confidence in his stuff and attacking hitters, a welcome change for the young kid that got himself into trouble by nibbling in years past. That confidence and mindset carried over as a starter, and Hughes was given the fifth starter’s job out of Spring Training this year, winning a competition that was for all intents and purposes rigged. It was Phil’s job to lose.

Because of the early season schedule, the Yankees didn’t need Hughes until the ninth games of the season, a home game against the Angels. It was a somewhat rocky start to the season, as he walked five and allowed a pair of runs in five innings, but it only got better from there. Hughes took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Athletics next time out, striking out ten and walking just two. Oakland scored one run, and it came when Joba Chamberlain let the inherited runner score. From there, the then 23-year-old Hughes held the Orioles to one run in 5.2 innings, then came seven scoreless against the White Sox, then seven innings and two runs against the Red Sox in Fenway, then seven more scoreless against the Tigers. Through his first six starts, Phil was sporting a 1.38 ERA and a .214 wOBA against.

Unsurprisingly, there was a regression to normalcy. Sustaining that kind of pace in AL East is near impossible. Hughes started to give up more homeruns, especially at home, and batters started to lock in on his fastball and foul off more pitches than before. As Joe explained yesterday, Phil’s season can be broken down into three distinct periods…

Thankfully for him, the home run problem is a new development. It might not even be a big concern going forward. For starters, seven of his 25 homers came against the Blue Jays, and six of those came in just two games. Furthermore, 12 of those 25 game during an eight game stretch during which Hughes struggled mightily. It’s the kind of stretch that many pitchers his age experience.

Before: 11 GS, 69.2 IP, 56 H, 21 R, 21 ER, 20 BB, 68 K, 4 HR

During: 8 GS, 47.2 IP, 53 H, 33 R, 32 ER, 14 BB, 34 K, 12 HR

After: 10 GS, 59 IP, 53 H, 29 R, 29 ER, 24 BB, 44 K, 9 HR

Hughes tossed up a gem in his ALDS start against the Twins (video), limiting them to four hits and one walk in seven shutout innings. He stunk in the ALCS like everyone else on the team, but the overall 2010 result for Phil Hughes was an overwhelming positive. First and foremost he stayed healthy, something that had been a bit of problem in the past. He soared past his previous career high of 146 innings (set in 2006) and threw 192 innings this year, playoffs included. The Yankees had him skip a few starts throughout the season to keep the workload down, and by and large it worked.

As for performance, Hughes’ ERA (4.19), FIP (4.25), xFIP (4.33), and tRA (4.25) all lined up, so there was little-to-no luck involved. He struck out 7.45 batters and unintentionally walked 2.91 for every nine innings pitched. Batters mustered just a .307 wOBA off Hughes (basically what Austin Kearns did as a Yankee), and his overall value was 2.4 fWAR and 2.7 bWAR. That puts his performance on par with guys like Tim Hudson (2.7 fWAR), Ted Lilly (2.3 fWAR), Zack Greinke (2.4 bWAR), and Tommy Hanson (2.5 bWAR), who are certainly among the league’s better hurlers.

Hughes is far from a finished product, and there’s a lot he has to work on both this offseason and going forward to take that next step towards being an elite starter. He needs to be more efficient and put batters away earlier, although going 0-2 on everyone and struggling to get the out is better than falling behind everyone 2-0 like he had been in the past. Hughes also needs to improve his changeup to better combat left-handed batters, who tagged him for a .320 wOBA this year (.292 vs. RHB). There’s more work to be done for sure, but the emergence of Phil Hughes as a legitimate big league starter was undeniably one of the best developments for the Yankees this year, and also one of the most enjoyable to watch as a fan.

What Went Wrong: A.J. Burnett

The Yankees added two high priced free agent starters last offseason, and while CC Sabathia has been worth every penny of his contract so far, the same can’t be said of A.J. Burnett. He was good enough during his first year in pinstripes and nothing short of brilliant in the team’s most important game of the 2009 season, but Burnett’s follow-up campaign was well below expectations and left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Ironically enough, Burnett’s season started in a very good way. Following his first outing of the year, in which he allowed three runs in five innings against the Red Sox, Burnett went through a stretch in which he allowed zero earned runs in three of four starts. His ERA sat at 1.99 through his first five starts of the season (with a sparkly 4-1 record), and after eleven starts he was still sporting a 3.28 ERA while the Yanks were 8-3 with him on the mound. There were some warning signs, however, most notably with A.J.’s strikeout rate. It had dropped to just 6.7 K/9, just about two full strikeouts off from last year’s pace. But hey, it was just eleven starts and Burnett was throwing the ball well, we all figured the strikeouts would come eventually.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last. Well, the low strikeout rate did, but not the success. In his 12th start of the season Burnett allowed six runs in six innings against the Blue Jays. Six days later he surrendered four runs in six innings to the Orioles, and the next three starts after that resulted in 33 baserunners and 19 runs in just 10.1 innings. Put it all together and Burnett’s June was statistically the worst ever by a Yankee starter: five starts, five losses, an 11.35 ERA and an almost unfathomable .471 wOBA against. All of the good work he did in April and May was washed away, and halfway through the season he was sporting a 5.25 ERA and the Yanks were just 8-8 in his starts.

The June collapse coincided with the absence of the now departed pitching coach Dave Eiland, who was away for personal reasons. The narrative practically wrote itself, Burnett would get better once his regular pitching coach returns. And you know what? He did for a while. With Eiland back with the team, A.J. threw 6.2 scoreless innings against the Jays, then limited Oakland to two runs in seven innings next time out. Things seemed to be going well, but after the Rays hung for runs on him in just two innings, Burnett slammed his hand into a clubhouse door out of frustration, cutting it open. He apologized to his teammates and had his next pushed back a few days to deal with the injury, but he then threw 11.1 scoreless innings against the lowly Royals and Indians.

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

As late as August 1st Burnett had himself a tolerable 4.52 ERA that lined up with his 4.59 FIP, certainly not what the Yankees were expecting out of their Opening Day number two starter but not completely horrific. Well, that’s when things got horrific. In his first outing of August, the Jays scored eight runs before Burnett could complete the fifth. The rest of the month featured a 7.80 ERA and yet again five losses in five starts. After the end of July, A.J. pitched to a 6.61 ERA (5.23 FIP) and as hard as it is to believe, the Yankees won just two of his final dozen starts the rest of the season.

Unsurprisingly, Burnett did not make the team’s three-man ALDS rotation, and their pounding of the Twins meant his services weren’t needed in relief either. He did make the team’s ALCS rotation by default, taking the mound in Game Four with the Rangers up two games to one in the series. Burnett actually wasn’t terrible in that start, holding the Rangers to just a pair of runs (without the benefit of a ball leaving the infield) in the first five innings. With the tying run on second with two outs in the sixth inning, Joe Girardi had Burnett intentionally walk David Murphy to face Bengie Molina. The first pitch pitch of the encounter was supposed to be low and away but it wound up up and in, and Molina turned on it for a go-ahead three run homer. The damage was done, and instead of walking off the mound feeling good about himself, A.J. went back to the dugout hearing the loudest boos of the season. Rather remarkable considering how the fans treated him in the second half.

The end result of Burnett’s season was 33 starts but just 186.2 innings (almost exactly 5.2 IP per start), so he was taxing the bullpen on a regular basis. In fairness, that number is slightly skewed by three starts in which Burnett was forced to exit early due to rain. His 5.26 ERA was easily a career worst, though his 4.83 FIP was merely awful. The 6.99 batters Burnett struck out per nine innings pitched was his worst mark since 2001, and he led the league with 19 hit batters and 37 stolen bases allowed. All told, opposing batters posted a .362 wOBA against the Yanks’ $16.5M man, so he basically turned every hitter he faced into the 2010 version of Alex Rodriguez. The total package was worth just 1.3 fWAR, ranking 90th out of the 103 pitchers that threw at least 150 innings in 2010.

The Yankees knew that Burnett was pretty unpredictable when they signed him to that five-year, $82.5M contract last winter, but I don’t think anyone expected him to go south this hard, this quickly. The lack of strikeouts is most concerning, since the ability to miss bats was the one thing A.J. has excelled at his entire career. His curveball, which checked in at 16.0 runs above average in 2009 (fourth best in baseball) dropped off to 3.9 runs below average, one of the eleven worst in the game. Whoever replaces Eiland as pitching coach will have the work cut out for them, starting right here with Burnett.

Easy big fella!

Murray/The Star-Ledger

I’m as big a fan of Jesus Montero as there is.  I’m glad the Cliff Lee trade didn’t go through.  I’m glad they didn’t trade him for Roy Halladay.  I have not seen him catch in person though I think the Yankees should try him at catcher until they’re 100% sure he either can or can’t handle the position.  As bullish as I am on Montero, Bill James’ 2011 projections for him just seem insane.  If you haven’t seen yet, James predicts a .285/.348/.519 line with 21 HR’s.  Yes, that’s in the major leagues.

How realistic is this?  First, considering this in a perspective solely to Montero, that line is eerily similar to his 2010 AAA line of .289/.353/.517 line with 21 HR’s.  So James prediction essentially says Montero will repeat his numbers as a 20 year old getting his first taste AAA as a 21 year old getting his first taste of the major leagues.  For all of us who followed Montero this year, we know that he got off to a horrible start and a ridiculously hot finish.  While the slow start is  certainly a possibility (and maybe even a probability) in the major leagues, is there any way Montero would go on a tear like he did last year, hitting .351/.396/.684 after the All Star break?  It took a run like that just to land at his final AAA line, and I can’t see that type of production in the major leagues over such a long period of time.  That’s Pujolsian.  So I’d say for Montero to approach his AAA line in the majors in 2011, he’d have to be pretty consistently awesome for 6 months (with the expected normal peaks and valleys) as a 21 year old rookie catcher, in New York, playing on a team that expects to win the World Series.   Good luck with that.

How realistic is Montero’s projection in a historical context?  Since 1901 how many 21 year old (or younger) catchers have ever slugged over .500 while catching at least 100 games?  Answer: none.  Stretch that out to 22 years old and you get two catchers:  Johnny Bench in 1970 which was his 3rd year in the league and Brian McCann in 2006 in his first full season, though he was not a rookie.  Even going out to the age of 23 there are only 4 more catchers who slugged .500 or greater (Nokes, Carter, Hartnett, Mauer) at such a young age.  And yet, James projects Montero is to slug .517 as a 21 year old rookie.  Opening this comparison up to all positions there have been 30 seasons (by 23 players) since 1901 to slug .500 or greater at age 21 or younger, again none of them catchers.  The list literally is chock full of Hall of Famers as you might expect.  Even if James’ projection for Montero were based on him solely DH’ing, you can still see just how historic his line would be.

I am pretty sure that Montero will not reach James’ lofty projections and it’s unfair to expect him to. That will not make him a bust, overrated or a disappointment.  Let’s all acknowledge that now.  If somehow Montero makes history and hits those projections we will all be beyond thrilled.  I can’t wait to see Montero’s first at-bat in the majors and expect to enjoy the ride, I just want to keep things in perspective, which I simply feel James projections do not do.

What Went Right: CC Sabathia

Every team has an “ace,” at least according to the rudimentary definition of the term. Yeah, someone has to be the best pitcher on the staff and someone has to start on Opening Day, but that doesn’t make that person true aces. A true ace is the guy that can carry his team on his back for stretches of the season. He’s the guy you give the ball to in big games without hesitation. He’s the guy that when you sit down and turn the television on to watch the game, you expect a win. The Yankees have a true ace, and his name is CC Sabathia.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Sabathia’s first season in New York was a smashing success; a brilliant regular season effort (3.39 FIP in 230 IP) followed by an even brilliant-er postseason capped off with a World Series victory. Building upon that success and being even better in 2010 would be damn near impossible, but CC gave it his best shot anyway.

Typically a slow starter, Sabathia skated through five April starts with a 3.12 ERA, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Rays in his second start of the season. He ran into a rough stretch after throwing eight innings of one run ball against the Orioles in his first May outing, dropping four of five starts thanks to 21 runs allowed in 28.2 IP. It was an uncharacteristic rough patch for CC, who battled fastball command more than anything, but once the calendar flipped to June, CC stood for Cruise Control.

Seven innings and three runs against the Orioles. Then seven innings and two runs against those sameOrioles. Then seven innings and three runs against the Phillies. Then 16 combined innings and one run against the Mets and Dodgers. It goes on like this for quite a while.

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

From May 30th through September 17th, Sabathia made 21 starts and threw no less than seven innings in 17 of them. The other four lasted 6.1, 6.2, 6.0, and 6.1 innings. He posted a 2.53 ERA in 152.2 innings during that stretch, holding opponents to a .273 wOBA. The Yankees won 17 of those 21 games, and most importantly CC was saving the bullpen. The rotation went from rock solid to down right disastrous during that time thanks to Andy Pettitte‘s injury and the general suckiness of Javy Vazquez, A.J. Burnett, and Dustin Moseley. The days that Sabathia pitched were the days everyone was able to rest easy, knowing that the big guy was going to take the ball deep into the game and if nothing else give the Yanks a chance to win. More often than not, they did.

Sabathia was also at his best when the team needed him to be. With a 6-14 record in their previous 20 games, the Yanks were stumbling through the final month of the season and had yet to clinch a playoff spot through 158 games. The natives were getting restless, but CC took the mound in Game 159 in Toronto and carried his team to a guaranteed playoff berth with 8.1 innings of one run ball. The only thing that stood in the way of a complete game win was the greatest reliever of all-time; Sabathia had plenty left in the tank if needed. Three weeks later, when the Yanks had their backs up against the wall in Game Five the ALCS, CC gave them six hard fought innings against the Rangers to extend their season another day.

The end result for Sabathia was a season that pleases both old school fans and saberists alike. He went 21-7 with a 3.18 ERA in 34 starts, numbers that have him squarely in the conversation for the Cy Young Award. CC also posted a 3.54 FIP and 5.1 fWAR, figures that made him one of the eight or ten most valuable pitchers in the league. If you prefer Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR, only Felix Hernandez was better. No matter which demographic you below two, old school or nerdy stats, we can all agree that the Yankees were lucky enough to trot out one of the game’s best every five days this season.

The CC Sabathia experience is now two years old for Yankee fans, and it’s near impossible to call his tenure anything but masterful. The Yanks have won 45 of his 68 starts, and on an individual level CC has posted a 3.27 ERA (3.47 FIP) in an unbelievable 467.2 innings. As far as the Yankees are concerned, almost nothing went more right than Sabathia in 2010.