After an incredible comeback season by CC Sabathia, the New York Yankees have a superb veteran workhorse with a lot to contribute.
When you attempt to draw out positives from the 2016 New York Yankees season, very few come to mind.
One is undoubtedly the rise of Gary Sanchez, who is giving the baseball world something they’ve never seen before by becoming the fastest player (51 games) to hit 20 home runs in their major league career.
Second is the dependability of Masahiro Tanaka, who has somehow come close to 200 innings (199.2 IP) while ranking third in the American League in earned run average (3.07). The word “somehow” comes into play since the righty deals with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.
Third is reasonably Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro becoming the first double play combo in franchise history to each crank 20 home runs in the same season.
Although nothing else truly pops off the page besides a handful of signature moments, CC Sabathia’s comeback season needs to join the list of silver linings as no one truly expected from New York’s former ace this season.
Sure, he finished off 2015 with a respectable 2.17 earned run average with 24 strikeouts in five September starts, but the (then) 35-year old lefty entered this year’s campaign fresh out of rehab for alcoholism and still faced the problem of succeeding with a diminished arsenal.
The veteran southpaw answered questions of his dependability with a phenomenal start (5-4, 2.20 ERA in first 11 starts) but promptly lost his flare as the year hit the dog days.
From June 22 to August 17, Sabathia put together a 2-6 record in 11 starts featuring an opponent’s slash line of .291/.354/.479 and surrendered 13 home runs in just 65 innings of work. Additionally, he maintained a 6.87 ERA.
Just when everyone was ready to call for his head, or at least for him to join those being pushed out, the former AL CY Young award winner zoned in and turned back the clock.
Capped off by an outing on Thursday night in which the 36-year-old overpowered the dominant Red Sox offense over 7.1 innings, Sabathia completed his best season (3.91 ERA) since 2012. He is also primed to be one of 20 AL starters with 160 innings under their belt along with a sub-4.00 ERA.
His final start was the closing of an eight-game stretch from Aug. 23 to last night in which he held opponents to a .227 batting average and maintained a 2.37 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 49.1 innings.
It’s safe to say that developing a cutter to supplement the diminished velocity on his fastball has been able to complete the Andy Pettitte-like transformation from flamethrower to a workhorse dependent on location.
”That cutter is a game-changer for him,” catcher Brian McCann told FOX Sports. ”When you’re changing identities and who you’ve always been as a pitcher and to have the success he had was great.”
As New York closes the chapter on 2016 and looks to open up the book on 2017, that version of Sabathia needs to veer its head given the number of question marks that have been placed on the starting rotation.
In fact, beyond Tanaka and Sabathia, there is no real dependable starter New York should be confident in every five days.
Beyond a healthy starter (30 starts this season), however, the 16-year veteran will have the ability to mentor the young hurlers moving up in the organization like Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Luis Severino and more.
What’s better than learning from one of the best hurlers of a generation and a workhorse that almost every team desires? Sure, he’s not the 200-inning guy he was before 2012, but what he could offer to the baby bombers is invaluable.
Christian Kouroupakis covers the New York Yankees for ESNY. Interact with him and view his daily work by “liking” his facebook page and follow him on Twitter. All statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Don’t hesitate to shoot him an email with any questions, criticisms, or concerns.