CC Sabathia’s string of stellar performance has displayed glimpses of what the New York Yankees have not seen in three years: vintage CC.
It is a frigid night in the Bronx, CC has just worked out of a tremendous eighth inning jam, and fans are sniffing a matchup with the Detroit Tigers on the American League’s largest stage.
Matt Wieters is the last man standing for the birds. Sabathia toes the rubber, kicks, and deals. Wieters rolls over the offering and taps it back to CC, who makes the play handily to complete a masterful performance on a huge Bronx stage.
CC has gone 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA in the five-game ALDS, the MVP of the series if there was one.
That was arguably the last time the Yankees witnessed vintage CC Sabathia; the last time they saw the horse who could be relied upon when push comes to shove.
Early the second month of 2016, glimpses of what used to be has returned for the southpaw. Despite exceeding everyone’s expectations from the outset of this season, the 35-year-old has shown more than solid performance.
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Watching the big left-hander rear back and pin a 93 MPH two-seamer into the mitt of Brian McCann and past the bat of Justin Smoak brought about the resemblance of the guy who won 74 games in his first four seasons in New York.
Sabathia has distanced himself from a man who can just barely be a number five starter on a big league staff and has turned himself into a weapon. The numbers reflect how much of a catalyst he has truly been throughout some tough times and better times for the starting rotation.
The home run bug that has given CC the most excruciating pain, 66 served up in last three seasons, has been nonexistent this year. Given thanks can be a more powerful and even further controlled repertoire. Especially in yesterday’s beauty, CC featured a more authoritative fastball, an effective changeup, and a money slider. All three of those pitches were located to perfection.
That alone can be thanked for only a number one located next to the home run column on his line this season.
Limiting the damage pays tribute to his 0.69 ERA in May. An ability to utilize the right pitches in the right counts has led to his 14 strikeouts in 13 innings this month. A new-found charisma has produced a 2.83 ERA in seven starts this season, holding opponents to a .231 average as he would in his first few years in the Bronx.
Keep in mind that it is only May, but also keep in mind that he has never pitched to a sub-3.00 ERA with the Yanks. Perhaps a shorter leash has yielded a greater ability to ‘let it loose’ if you will. In addition, a shorter leash results in far less of a chance of implosion and in turn a decreased earned run average.
For instance, he allowed a mere two hits and no earned runs over seven brilliant innings yesterday. Skipper Joe Girardi pulled him after 83 pitches, not wanting to see the version of Sabathia that had permitted a .308 batting average in pitches 75-100 of his outings prior to the start.
Better finessing his pitches and being carefully managed by Joe Girardi, Larry Rothschild, and co. may provide CC with the greatest opportunity to excel at this phase in his career.
It may seem absurd to some, but there may be no coincidence that CC’s alcohol issues began at the end of 2012 and were finally worked on preceding 2016.
An occasional exploitation of his old stuff, a more than confident mystique, and a more than attentive coaching staff seem to generate the largest fraction of CC’s former self since his former self was current.