Monitoring Sabathia’s workload

One of the selling points of CC Sabathia‘s Cy Young case is the incredible volume of innings he’s amassed this season. Fans have long grown accustomed to the bulky lefty throwing up outsized innings pitched totals, and for this reason it’s easy to gloss over his prolificity. This year, he’s thrown 176.2 innings, a number eclipsed by only Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. In the last two years, he’s thrown the third most innings in baseball, behind Halladay and Felix Hernandez. In the last five years no one in baseball has thrown more innings than Sabathia. He’s thrown 1,138.1, leading Roy Halladay by 8 innings. The next closest is Dan Haren with 1072.2. If you add in the seventy some-odd innings he’s thrown in the postseason since 2007, his lead over Halladay only widens further.

This is a cause for pride and for concern. Sabathia has earned his reputation as a durable ace, and there’s no current reason to think he’ll suddenly get injured or break down. Still one could be forgiven for wondering if he’ll be able to do this in perpetuity. If he won’t, then when exactly will the decline begin? This is a particular relevant question this season, as CC is currently on pace to threaten to eclipse his past innings pitched and total pitches thrown totals. Below is a chart detailing the past five years of work, and projecting what he might achieve if current trends hold.

As it currently stands, Sabathia is throwing around 108 pitches per start. This is a mark reminiscent of his last contract year with the Milwaukee Brewers. If he keeps up his current pace, Sabathia will pitch close to 250 innings again and throw around 3700 pitches, 100 pitches or so higher than what he did in 2007, 2009 and 2010 and, again, closer to his 2008 campaign. Of course, the postseason counts too. It doesn’t show up in Sabathia’s initial Baseball-Reference page, but the pitches he’s hurled with that left arm count just as much (if not a little more, given the stress of the event) than the ones in April.

Obviously, the 2011 totals could vary a great deal depending on how far the Yankees go into the postseason. In the scenario that minimizes the number of postseason pitches thrown for Sabathia (the worst-case scenario for the Yankees, they go home in the ALDS), Sabathia makes one start. In the scenario that maximizes the number of postseason pitches thrown, Sabathia makes 8 starts (2 in the ALDS, 3 in the ALCS and 3 in the WS – heart-attack city). Spitballing it, his 2009 numbers seem like a fair enough estimate for what he might do in this year’s postseason, but even so he averaged 7 innings and close to 110 pitches per outing that year. Scaling it back to 5 starts, 500 pitches and 30 innings is a bit more conservative. This isn’t any sort of serious projection, to be clear; no one knows how far the Yankees will go into October and how many starts Sabathia will make. There’s nothing wrong with spitballing though as long as you admit you’re spitballing it! Here’s the cumulative data on Sabathia, including the regular season and postseason.

To recap, Sabathia is likely looking at around 250 innings and 3,650-3,700 pitches in the regular season. This would be his highest mark since 2008. If he throws 5 postseason starts of six innings and 100 pitches apiece (a conservative estimate that could vary wildly), his innings pitched and pitches thrown totals will creep up to an all-time high, well past the 265.4 IP and 4,134 pitches thrown mark he set in back in 2009. It’s not inconceivable that he could crack 280 innings and 4,200 pitches. If he were to make 2 starts in the ALDS, 3 in the ALCS and 3 in the World Series, he’d easily surpass the 300 innings pitched mark.

This is all a moot point if the Yankees get bounced before the World Series, but it’s at least worth monitoring for several reasons. For one, the last time he cracked 250 innings in the regular season (after pitching on short rest for what seemed like weeks) he was ineffective in his only NLDS start with the Brewers. He looked run-down, and the Brewers went home early. It doesn’t even need to be said, but the Yankees need a sharp CC to do well this October. Secondly, Sabathia will likely opt-out of his current contract and re-up with the Yankees on another long-term deal this winter. If he’s going to be around for awhile and making big bucks, it might be a good idea to look after his long-term interests.

One easy way to do this would be to continue to roll with the six-man rotation in August. As Moshe Mandel of The Yankee Analysts noted in great detail, the six-man rotation this month would result in one less start for CC Sabathia. Hughes and Nova both pitched well in their last outings, so there doesn’t seem to be huge harm in allowing them to continue to battle it out this month, and hopefully it would result in slightly lower innings pitched and pitches thrown totals for Sabathia. He’ll still have ridiculously high numbers by the standard of mostly any other pitcher, but there’s only so much that can be done. The Yankees should do what they can to keep him fresh for October and beyond, but at some point they’ll simply have to roll the dice and hope for the best.

Yankees claim first place in AL East with win over Red Sox

Stop the presses! The Yankees have actually beaten the Red Sox. It most certainly was not easy, but some timely hits and dominant bullpen work preserved the 3-2 victory.

  • WPA won’t back this up, but hands down the biggest at-bat of the game was Boone Logan striking out Adrian Gonzalez with the bases loaded to end the fifth inning. Bartolo Colon had to work very hard for four-plus innings, especially in that prolonged fifth, but Logan came out of the pen to strikeout one of the three or four best hitters in the world on three pitches. Just a great job by Boone, star of the game right there.
  • The Yankees were down two-zip at the time of Logan’s strikeout, but they turned around and scored the only three runs they’d need in the very next half-inning. Eduardo Nunez gets a gold star for leading off that sixth inning with a walk after Jon Lester got ahead of him 0-2 in the count. Derek Jeter singled back up the middle, then Curtis Granderson got the Yankees on board with an RBI single to the opposite field in a two-strike count. Great piece of hitting. Mark Teixeira walked to load the bases, then Robinson Cano tied the game by grounding into a double play after a nine-pitch at-bat. Less than ideal, but it worked. Nick Swisher plated the go-ahead run on a ground rule double down the line. Down two to up one just like that.
  • Logan’s whiff of Gonzalez was clearly the biggest out, but the entire bullpen was stupid good. Boone got two more outs in the sixth then gave way to Cory Wade, who changeup’d Jarrod Saltalamacchia to death for the final out. Rafael Soriano threw some serious gas in a perfect seventh inning (the best he’s looked as a Yankee), David Robertson got some at ’em balls in a perfect eighth, then Mariano Rivera struck out two in the ninth after a Carl Crawford infield single. All told, the relief corps retired 13 of the 15 men they faced, and the only two exceptions were Crawford and his sub-.300 OBP.
  • It wouldn’t be a Yankees’ game without some blown opportunities, of course. Jorge Posada looked at strike three to end the second with men on first and second, Andruw Jones wandered to far off first on what was ultimately a double play to end the fifth (he completely misread the fly ball, he had to think that sucker was dropping in), and both Jeter and Nunez got thrown out trying to steal at various points. Swish was the only Yankee with multiple hits (he also walked), though Nunez singled and walked twice. Andruw walked twice, Tex once. The few hits they did get were well-timed, that’s for sure.
  • The Yankees have won a season-high eight games a row, taking sole possession of first place in the AL East for the first time in exactly a month. Here’s the box score, here’s the FanGraphs stuff, and here’s the updated standings.

Because eight wins in a row aren’t enough, the Yankees will send CC Sabathia to the mound in the second game of this three-game series on Saturday afternoon. That’s a FOX game, so it won’t start until 4pm ET. John Lackey’s pet horse goes for Boston. If you want to catch the game, RAB Tickets can help you find the cheapest way to get there.

JoVa homers again in SWB win

Some news and notes…

  • Austin Romine has been placed on the disabled list due to his strained back, which isn’t at all surprising. Wilkins Arias has been activated off the phantom DL to take his roster spot. Hopefully Romine heals up well, but there’s a chance his season is over.
  • Steve Evarts has been suspended for 50 games after testing positive for “metabolites of Nandrolone, a performance enhancing substance.” The lefty had a 5.65 ERA inĀ  seven starts for Low-A Charleston after being brought on as lottery ticket over the winter, but this likely ends his Yankees’ career.
  • Gary Sanchez is the tenth hottest prospect in the minors according to this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. Four of his seven hits this week left the yard, bringing his season total to 14.
  • The Yankees signed some right-hander named Victor Lozada, but I can’t find anything about the guy anyway. Smart money is on him being filler anyway.
  • John Sickels posted a review of his preseason top 20 Yankees prospects. He used a lot of big and fancy words to say Andrew Brackman sucks, going so far to say it’s “an unspeakable waste of talent and money.” I think he forgot that this team pays LOOGY’s $4M a year not to pitch.
  • Remember Chris Garcia? He gave up one run in two innings of work for the Short Season Auburn Doubledays yesterday, his first game action sine blowing out his elbow in the first game of last season. Good to see him back, hope he does well.

Triple-A Scranton (8-4 win over Louisville)
Chris Dickerson, CF: 0 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB
Greg Golson, LF: 1 for 5, 2 K – threw a runner out at the plate
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 3, 2 R, 2 BB – just wasting away down here
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 K – second jack in as many days, four in his last nine games
Brandon Laird, 3B: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 K – 13 for 34 (.382) since being sent down
Mike Lamb, DH & Jordan Parraz, RF: both 3 for 4 – Lamb scored a run … Parraz doubled twice, drove in two, and struck out
Luis Nunez, 2B: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 RBI
Doug Bernier, SS: 1 for 4, 1 R, 2 K
D.J. Mitchell, RHP: 6 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4-4 GB/FB – 61 of 101 pitches were strikes (60.4%) … gave up two homers, so that’s nine on the year
Josh Schmidt, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – seven of 12 pitches were strikes
Greg Smith, LHP: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2-0 GB/FB – 11 of 15 pitches were strikes
George Kontos, RHP: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2-1 GB/FB – 11 of 16 pitches were strikes

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Game 111: Bartday

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Freddy Monterio via Creative Commons license)

In three days, one of these two teams will be alone in first place in the AL East. That would sound way more dramatic if it was late-September and not early-August, but it is what it is. The Yankees and Red Sox have identical 68-42 records, and they’ve both lined up what is essentially their three best pitchers to throw in the series. Here’s the lineup for the opener…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Andruw Jones, LF
Russell Martin, C
Jorge Posada, DH
Eduardo Nunez, 3B

Bartolo Colon, SP

All three games will be national television this weekend. YES will carry this one along with MLB Network, with first pitch scheduled for a little after 7pm ET. Enjoy.

No roster move, Yankees sticking with 13 pitchers

Joe Girardi hinted after last night’s game that the Yankees might make a roster move today to add a position player, but that will not happen and they will stick with a 13-man pitching staff through the weekend. Furthermore, Phil Hughes will be available out of the bullpen on Sunday (his throw day), but only in an emergency. Right now he is still scheduled to start Tuesday, and A.J. Burnett on Wednesday. That would change if Phil came on in relief this weekend. Ivan Nova will also remain on schedule, so it sounds like they’re going to do the six-man rotation thing for at least one more turn through the rotation, or at least are leaning that way right now.

A-Rod takes step forward in rehab

Via the AP, Alex Rodriguez increased the intensity of his workout in Tampa today as he comes back from right knee surgery. He took a total of 60 ground balls (40 ground balls from his knees, ten from the edge of the infield, ten from normal third base depth) and then 118 swings (55 off a tee, 63 off soft-toss). Afterward, he hung around to talk to some Braves’ minor leaguers who were in town to play the Rookie Level GCL Yankees. What a jerk.

The report says the Yankees expect him back in mid-August, which is the first time we’ve seen anything resembling a date for his return. Yay.

Rolling the dice with Alex Hinshaw

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Tom Clifton via Creative Commons license)

I’m a sucker for projects, and I think most people are as well. It’s a lot of fun to buy low on a talented player and dream about him figuring things out and reaching his ceiling in your favorite team’s uniform. Every so often one of these projects will work out (Phil Humber), but most of the time they don’t (Andrew Miller). I bring this up because the Giants designated Alex Hinshaw for assignment yesterday, sacrificing him to the roster spot gods so they could activate Mark DeRosa off the disabled list.

Hinshaw, a 28-year-old lefty reliever, is a classic project pitcher. His fastball sits 91-93 from the left side and his money-maker is a nasty low-70’s curveball, a pitch that has helped him miss bats everywhere he’s been. He’s struck out 49 in 45.2 big league innings, plus another 169 in 134 Triple-A innings. The problem is the walks, Hinshaw’s always been prone to ball four. His big league walk-rate is 7.1 BB/9, but it is a small sample and there are some intentional walks to right-handed batters inflating that number (6.3 uIBB/9). A 5.6 uIBB/9 in Triple-A is a little less unsightly.

Before being cut yesterday, Hinshaw was pulling the same act for San Francisco’s Double and Triple-A affiliates. He’s thrown 37.2 IP this year, striking out 45 but walking 24 unintentionally. He had a huge reverse split (lefties hitting .310, righties just .116), but that’s a function of sample size and is not consistent with the other five years of his career. Big league lefties hit .239/.343/.330 off him, righties .253/.427/.513. It’s worth noting that he hasn’t been in the show since 2009, and 2008 was the only year he spent considerable time in the bigs.

There was talk once upon a time about Hinshaw developing into the Giants’ closer of the future, but that obviously never happened. They used his final minor league option this season (by my unofficial count), so any team that grabs him would only have another month to evaluate him in the minors plus a possible September call-up. Hinshaw’s salary is in the mid-six figures, so a straight waiver claim would be perfectly fine. Not like you’d have to wait for him to clear waivers and elect free agency to avoid some kinda huge salary obligation.

The Yankees have some dead weight on their 40-man roster, and it’s likely that none of their six 60-day DL guys will be back this year. Hinshaw’s hard-throwing left-handedness is probably worth an eight week audition (four in the minors, four with the big league team in Sept.) and a roster spot over Jeff Marquez, for example. Chances are it won’t click and it’ll be a failed experiment, but there’s some talent there and the Yankees could luck into 15 great innings next month. Every little bit helps, and the move would be of no long-terms consequence to the organization.