Archive for CC Sabathia
Saturday: Via Jon Heyman: Sabathia will see Dr. James Andrews later this week. The ligament in his elbow is said to be fine, but it’s believed that there’s a bone spur which will need to be cleaned up. Heyman says it wouldn’t put in him danger of missing time next season. Fingers crossed until the Doc looks at him.
Friday: Via Marc Carig: The Yankees will take another look at CC Sabathia‘s left elbow now that the season is over. “Let’s put it this way, we’re going to look at that elbow, no doubt about it,” said Brian Cashman. “That will be on the list of things we have to look at now that the offseason’s here. Whether he wants to or not, we’re going to go look into this thing and make sure everything’s okay.”
Sabathia spent two weeks on the DL with elbow stiffness at midseason and struggled initially after his return, but he pitched extremely well late in the season and in the ALDS before getting rocked in ALCS Game Four last night. The left-hander told reporters that the elbow “felt good enough to pitch” yesterday, perhaps indicating that he wasn’t 100%. Then again, no one is this time of year.
4:39pm: Girardi confirmed that Kuroda will indeed start Game Two tomorrow, and he’ll be followed by Phil Hughes in Game Three and CC Sabathia in Game Four (on normal rest) regardless of the series score. If there’s a Game Seven, I assume Sabathia would start on short rest.
Kuroda, 37, will be starting on three days’ rest for the first time in his career after throwing 105 pitches in Game Three of the ALDS on Wednesday. Pretty much the only other option was pulling long man David Phelps out of the bullpen. The Yankees added an extra reliever (Cody Eppley) to the roster today and will have Monday off, so there will be a full complement of relievers backing Kuroda up.
Got five questions for you this week, and none of them are directly tied to the ALDS. Consider this a break from the playoffs for a few hours. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us questions.
Bill asks: If the Yanks were to buy out A-Rod‘s contract (not saying they should just if they did) would his salary still count towards the team salary for getting under the $189 million limit?
Yeah, it would. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, player salary that counts towards the luxury tax is “the value of the total compensation (cash or otherwise) paid to a Player pursuant to the terms of a Uniform Player’s Contract, including any guarantee by the Club of payments by third parties, for a particular championship season. Salary shall include, without limitation, the value of non-cash compensation such as the provision of personal translators, personal massage therapists, and airfare and tickets exceeding normal Club allotments.”
In English, that means anything a team plays a player will count towards the tax. The structure of the buyout would determine when and how much applies to the luxury tax calculations. There are five years and $114M left on A-Rod’s contract after this season and the Yankees are goimng to pay every penny. They’re not trading him, he’s not going to retire, and they’re not going to negotiate a buyout so they can cut him loose. It’s not happening. He’ll be around until 2017 whether you like it or not. Ownership made their bed and now they’ll have to sleep in it.
Nick asks: Do you think that Jayson Nix could wind up on the Yankees again next season?
I definitely think it’s possible. Nix, 30, will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and will probably still be in line for a six-figure salary next season. I have a hard time seeing a career up-and-down bench player with a .214/.285/.371 batting line pulling in more than a million bucks his first time through arbitration.
Nix is a useful role player capable of playing a ton of positions and providing some offense against left-handers, so it makes sense for the Yankees to hold onto him. He shouldn’t deter them from acquiring a better utility infielder if one comes along this offseason, the only problem is that he is out of minor league options and can’t be sent to the minors next season without clearing waivers. I wouldn’t call Nix a lock for the 2013 roster by any means, but there’s certainly a chance of it happening.
Well, the Sanchez stuff last season was so bad that the team had to send him to Extended Spring Training for disciplinary reasons. He refused to pinch-hit in a game and catch a side session, which is a major no-no. The Williams stuff was reported as “a few headaches,” which frankly is the first I’ve heard of him having any kind of real makeup problem. Mason has been knocked for being too hard on himself and getting frustrated with bad at-bats or plays, but nothing that created a problem with other players or coaches. We’ll have to pay attention to this in the future, because this report did catch me a bit off guard.
JW asks: Here’s a mailbag question: assume Rafael Soriano opts out and the Yankees make a qualifying offer. Under the new FA compensation rules, does it project that the signing team would have to give up a draft pick? I know that the number of players whose signing warrants giving up a pick has been reduced by a lot.
Under the new system, a team would have to forfeit a draft pick to sign a top free agent (who has received a qualifying offer), but that pick does not go to the player’s former team. It just disappears. The former team receives one supplemental first round pick instead, which is pulled out of thin air like the old system. I assume the Yankees will make Soriano a qualifying offer if he opts out because he’d be walking away from more money ($14M) by opting out than he would get through the offer ($13.3-13.4M). I have no idea who would give up a draft pick to sign him but it doesn’t really matter — the Yankees will end up with the same compensation pick no matter where he ends up.
GB asks: If Curtis Granderson, CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Mark Teixeira, David Robertson, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter were all FA’s after this season, what kind of contracts would you see them getting?
Well this is a fun one. I have an amazing knack for underestimating free agent contracts, but I’ll give this my best shot anyway…
- Granderson — 40+ homer power is rare, so that alone will get Curtis paid at age 31. Clubs will probably be gun-shy because of Jason Bay, but his four-year, $66M deal with the Mets seems like an appropriate benchmark.
- Sabathia — Despite the elbow injury and sub-par second half, Sabathia would still wind up with $20M+ a year easy. Frankly I bet he could match the five-year, $122.5M deal he signed with the Yankees last winter if he went back out onto the open market this year. Pitchers of Sabathia’s caliber very rarely hit free agency.
- Hughes — How does four years and $40M sound? Phil is only 27, so you’d theoretically be buying all of his peak years and expect some improvement going forward. Maybe $44-48M would be closer to reality as a free agent.
- Teixeira — At this point, age 32, Teixeira is just a touch above the first base league average offensively (115 vs. 106 wRC+) while remaining a stud with the glove. First baseman make more money than anyone, so I think another Bay-like four-year, $66M deal would be in the cards.
- Robertson — A stud reliever at age 27 is a prime candidate to get overpaid, especially if someone plans on making him a closer. Joaquin Benoit’s three-year, $16.5M deal with the Tigers seems like the floor here. Three or fours years at $6-7M annually wouldn’t surprise me at all.
- A-Rod: Not much right now, probably like two years and $20M with most of that coming on reputation.
- Jeter: The Cap’n is in a weird spot because I don’t think any other team would pursue him as a free agent. Not because he’s a bad player or anything, but because of the “Yankees or retirement” vibe. Could Jeter match the three-year, $51M contract he signed two years ago this offseason? Yeah, I think he might be able too.
The Yankees and Orioles will open their best-of-five ALDS matchup tomorrow night in Camden Yards, which will be the first playoff game in the ballpark since 1997. The two teams split the season series 9-9 with the O’s scoring two more runs overall (92-90). They finished two games apart in the standings and were locked in a tight division race right down to the final game of the season. It should be a blowout on paper, but Baltimore has continued to exceed expectations all summer.
When the series opens Sunday night, left-hander CC Sabathia will be on the mound for the Yankees. It’s unclear who the opposing starter will be at the moment, but we’ll find out soon enough. Sabathia closed the regular season out with three dominant starts, allowing four runs total on 13 hits and four walks in 24 innings while striking out 28. He went exactly eight innings in all three starts. Sabathia made just three starts against Baltimore this season, allowing four runs in six innings twice (once in April, once in May) and five runs in 6.1 innings once (in September). He has dominated the Orioles throughout his career, pitching to a 3.12 ERA (~3.40 FIP) in 25 starts and 176 innings. These aren’t your older brother’s Orioles anymore though.
One of the biggest keys to Game One for Sabathia and the Yankees is stopping Adam Jones, Baltimore’s 32-homer center fielder. Stopping the other team’s best player is like, Captain Obvious stuff, but this is a little deeper than that. Jones is one of just six active players with at least 30 career plate appearances and an OPS over 1.000 against Sabathia, so he’s given him some problems in recent years. One of the remaining five players in Sabathia’s teammate, and only one other is on a postseason team…
Those three homers have come in each of the last three years. Jones took Sabathia deep this past May (solo shot in a 1-0 count), last April (three-run shot in a 2-1 count), and two Junes ago (solo shot in a 0-1 count). Notice the strikeout and walks totals, just six whiffs (13.3%) and four free passes (8.9%). They’re far better than Jones’ career rates (19.3 K% and 4.8 BB%) in the admittedly tiny sample size. Let’s take a look at a strike zone breakdown of where the Baltimore center fielder does his damage and where he struggles against southpaws, courtesy of Joe Lefkowitz’s site…
You can click the link for a larger view, but the gist of it is that Jones murders fastballs on the inner half and up in the zone. Catch too much of the plate with an offspeed pitch and he’ll crush that too, though most big league hitters will make pitchers pay for a hanger. The Baseball Prospectus Matchup Page shows us how Sabathia has pitched Jones in their 45 career matchups, and it’s pretty basic Sabathia stuff. Sliders down-and-in, changeups down-and-away, fastballs to both sides of the plate.
Given Jones’ strengths within the strike zone, Sabathia and the Yankees are better off pounding him away with fastballs before coming down-and-in with the slider (or burying a changeup). His spray chart against lefties over the last two years (via Texas Leaguers) suggests that Jones will reach out and poke outside pitches to right for a base hit, but he doesn’t hit for much power to the opposite field…
That career walk rate I mentioned earlier (4.8%) is an indication that Jones is not the most patient of hitters. Even this year, the best year of his career (to date), his walk rate was just 4.9%. Jones will help pitchers get him out, and in fact he’s swung at 40.4% of the pitches he’s seen out of the strike zone in each of the last two seasons. That’s the fourth highest rate in the game among qualified hitters, behind noted hackers Vlad Guerrero, Delmon Young, and A.J. Pierzynski. He will get himself out at times, but Jones isn’t an idiot. He’ll sit on the pitch if the Yankees keep throwing fastballs away, so expanding the zone and intentionally throwing some off the plate, especially later in the count, will be important.
Outside of Jones, two of the Orioles most productive hitters in the last month are left-handed — Chris Davis (190 wRC+) and Nate McLouth (125 wRC+). Sabathia should be able to handle both guys thanks to the left-on-left matchup and his vicious slider, but stopping Jones (and switch-hitter Matt Wieters for that matter) won’t be so simple. Sabathia has had some trouble with him throughout his career, and Jones’ tendencies suggest that staying away with the fastball before coming inside with the slider is the way to approach him tomorrow night. Much easier said than done obviously, location will be very important.
The Yankees lost Monday afternoon’s game to the Rays for a number of reasons, one of which was CC Sabathia pitching merely pretty well rather than exceptionally. Three runs in seven innings hardly qualifies as a disaster start, but with the offense struggling — three runs or less in eight of the last twelve games — and a shaky bullpen corps, the club could have used a little more from their ace. Simply matching Jamie Shields wasn’t enough.
I’ve already written about Sabathia’s bout with pitching mortality earlier this month. The 32-year-old’s 3.42 ERA (3.36 FIP) would be his highest since 2005, the last time he was a 4.00+ ERA pitcher. Coincidentally enough, his performance looks an awful lot like what he did during his first season in pinstripes, when he pitched to a 3.37 ERA (3.39 FIP). The issue with that is the overall drop in offense around the league — a 3.37 ERA in 2009 was 37% better than league average whereas 3.42 this year is only 23% better than average.
Sabathia has been on the DL twice this summer, the first time with a groin issue and the second with elbow stiffness. Obviously the latter is a much greater concern, but in his three starts back he’s pitched to a 2.53 ERA (3.39 FIP) with 21 strikeouts and three walks in 21.1 innings, so a touch more than seven frames per start. The three unearned runs allowed against the Blue Jays last week should certainly be note — I’ve never felt an error by the defense completely absolved the pitcher of all blame. Maybe it does in some instances, but not last week when Jayson Nix bobbled a no-out ground and Sabathia went on to allow three straight two-out, run-scoring hits in the inning.
Despite his strikeout total since the DL and excellent overall season strikeout rate (8.89 K/9 and 23.5 K%), Sabathia’s inability to get a swing-and-miss yesterday was very noticeable. He only got eight whiffs out of 116 total pitches (6.9%), well below his 11.6% season average and 10.8% career average. Only two of those swings and misses came on the slider (out of 27 thrown, so 7.4%), a pitch that has otherwise generated 18.6% swings and misses this year. Against the Jays a week ago, it was 18 whiffs overall (99 pitches, so 18.2%) and a dozen on the slider (out of 37, so 32.4%). That lack of swing-throughs really stood out to me yesterday.
Buster Olney said “there continue to be rumblings around the sport that the [elbow] discomfort that has nagged (Sabathia) most of this season still lingers” in today’s Insider-only blog post, going so far as to speculate that there may be loose bodies or a bone spur involved. He notes that Sabathia has thrown a fewer percentage of fastballs of late and tries to use that as evidence for a lingering problem, but that doesn’t make much sense. If his elbow is bothering him, he’d be throwing more fastballs and fewer breaking balls, not the other way around. A fastball is the most basic of pitches, there’s no wrist snap or turn-over, nothing that like.
Anyway, that said, I do think it’s fair to wonder if the elbow is still an issue somehow. That doesn’t necessarily mean Sabathia is still hurt, but perhaps he’s just a little tentative at the moment and hasn’t really cut it loose following the first arm injury of his life. The general rule of thumb is that elbow issues show in a pitcher’s command (or lack thereof), and Sabathia’s has been off all season is seems. When he does get hit, it’s because he misses up in the zone or catches too much of the plate. That’s true for every pitcher obviously, but great pitchers like CC just do it less frequently. Anecdotally, I feel like he’s gotten burned by more mistake pitches this season than at any other time of his Yankees tenure.
“He can win with what he’s got, and on most days, he’ll find a way to get the job done,” said a scout to Olney, a pretty apt description of Sabathia’s season. He hasn’t been terrible, not by any means, but he hasn’t had that prolonged stretch of dominance at any point. “[He's] not going to dominate anybody right now … You can get some good swings against him,” added the scout, sure enough. The Yankees have a number of problems contributing to this second half downward spiral, and having Sabathia pitch at a level below his usual production is one of those problems.
Via Joel Sherman, the Dodgers called the Yankees about the availability of both CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira prior to swinging their nine-player blockbuster with the Red Sox. The Bombers told them they have no interest in moving either player. Both Sabathia and Teixeira have four years and $90M+ left on their contracts after the season as well as full no-trade clauses.
It’s well-known that the Yankees want to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014, so moving even one of those two contracts would have been a huge financial help moving forward. Of course, it also would have weakening a division-leading club with World Series aspirations immensely. Moving Sabathia would have been foolish, Teixeira less so. Sherman also notes that the Dodgers didn’t appear to have any interest in Alex Rodriguez, who is still owed $114M from 2013-2017. That’s one contract the Yankees aren’t shedding.
Via Sweeny Murti, left-hander CC Sabathia came through today’s 38-pitch bullpen session just fine and doesn’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be able to start on Friday, the first day he is eligible to come off the DL. The Yankees still need to see how he feels tomorrow before making it official, however. Sabathia has been on the DL for a little than two weeks with stiffness in his left elbow.
Left-hander CC Sabathia reported no problems with his left elbow following a bullpen session this morning. The Yankees placed their ace on the DL with stiffness in the elbow last weekend. The plan calls for Sabathia to throw another bullpen on Tuesday before coming off the DL and returning to the rotation at his old stomping grounds in Cleveland on Friday, the first day he is eligible to be activated.
After coming through yesterday’s flat ground throwing session a-okay, left-hander CC Sabathia told Sweeny Murti that he will get back up on a mound and throw a bullpen session tomorrow. It’ll be his first time throwing off a mound since being placed on the DL with elbow stiffness last weekend. Sabathia remains on target to return to the rotation next Friday in Cleveland, the first day he is eligible to be activated off the DL.
3:02pm: Sabathia told Dan Martin that he felt good following today’s throwing session and that he remains on track to start that August 24th game. “It felt really good,” he said. “I didn’t feel anything in the elbow, so I am confident. I’m just looking forward to pitching next Friday.” How he feels tomorrow is important as well, but so far so good.
11:30am: Via George King, left-hander CC Sabathia will throw off flat ground today for the first time since being placed on the DL with elbow stiffness over the weekend. “I have just been getting treatment,” he said when asked what he’s been doing in the meantime. Sabathia insists that he will be on the mound on August 24th against the Indians, the first day he is eligible to be activated, but throwing today is a significant step even if it’s not off a mound. Hopefully he comes through fine and can start working his way back in earnest.