CC Sabathia has discovered a new and profound version of himself on the mound for the New York Yankees and the results speak for themselves.
Entering his age 35 season with a combined ERA of 4.81 over his last three seasons, CC Sabathia was simply trying to work himself back into the realm of respectability. As for the New York Yankees, they were just counting the days until the 2012 extension of his contract expired.
Nowhere in the minds of the front office was the distinct possibility of a return to vintage form. If CC was able to keep himself in the rotation it was to be considered a gift.
At this point, everyone knows the brilliant story that has come about. The big left-hander has come full circle, found a new style to win with, and become the most dependable arm in the Yankee rotation.
Featuring a two-seam fastball with increased velocity, a cutter taken after Andy Pettitte and David Wells, a changeup which he is burying down in the zone, and a devastating backdoor slider, Sabathia has made the true adjustments that were the subject of discussion for years.
Working with a knee brace implemented at the end of last year, the 2009 ALCS MVP has found a way to consistently hammer down his delivery. Once a question of whether he would be able to pitch through true knee woes, the same landing spot is being executed each time through the windup and he is attacking opposing hitters with confidence rather than hoping for the best.
While descriptions can go to show why the results are coming about, the pure numbers reflect his efforts to salvage the latter stages of his career.
His 2.20 ERA ranks him second, yes second, in that category in the American League. His 0.82 ERA since May 1 ranks atop major league baseball by a landslide. In addition, Sabathia has not allowed more than three earned runs in any start this season.
Relying on movement rather than power and finesse rather than aptitude, CC has solidified himself as one of the game’s better starting pitchers once again. He has also served as a model for pitchers who do not believe that their stuff can carry them through a career of longevity.
The comeback story is fantastic, the storyline is unmatched, and the AL Comeback Player Of The Year voting may already be closed. However, is this particular man an all-star?
When Ned Yost, this year’s American League manager, picks his pitching staff and reserves to represent the best of the best that the game has to offer today, does he extend the offer CC’s way?
The real fine line here is whether Sabathia is being valued largely based on sheer results or his comeback story and perseverance through a fight with alcoholism involving rehab and resolve.
Digging further into the numbers, opponents have only managed 54 hits in 65 1/3 innings this year and their average with him on the mound is a weak .224. Moreover, he has held left-handers to a lowly .192 clip.
Most importantly, he is getting the outs that he truly needs to get. With runners in scoring position this year, opponents have slashed a subpar .204/.283/.241 against the 15-year veteran.
Evidently, runs are not the only thing CC is keeping off the board. Opposing teams have not managed hard contact off him as well, which has been a major distinction from the three years prior.
According to FanGraphs, the line drive rate of opponents is down a promising 4.1% from last year and his hard hit rate, whether on the ground or in the air, is down a full six percent. Both of those categories are at a three percent or more decrease from his career average.
With that being said, even when CC does show signs of getting knocked around and gets himself into trouble, he no longer has a tendency to unravel.
Take tonight as a direct example of how much faith has been placed in the 6’7″ lefty opposed to the beginning of the year. Joe Girardi kept the optimism through 116 pitches and three jams that were easily defining moments of the game.
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In early April, due to the nature of not knowing what to expect, at the first sign of trouble Sabathia was in the showers. If numbers do not do the trick, general trends can. CC has turned himself back into the horse that will take full responsibility and take a game upon himself. There are no excuses when he is on the mound.
Unfortunately, Ned Yost has not been given the privilege of a front row seat to pay witness to the transformation of a former ace’s career. Fans have sat back in awe and the league has taken notice, but it takes a true eye on the big man to come to realization of what he has masterfully put forth.
While CC Sabathia should end up in a situation where he is reserving himself and his family a plane ride to San Diego, the idea may be obscure in the eyes of many.
The 2016 All-Star Game may be the last of his worries and concerns, but it would certainly provide a nice pat on the back.
What are your thoughts on a potential CC Sabathia all-star bid? Get your opinion heard by voting in the Twitter poll below.
If you were Ned Yost selecting your AL pitching staff today, would CC Sabathia (5-4, 2.20 ERA) make the cut? #NYY
— Emmanuel Berbari (@e_berbari22) June 17, 2016