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CC Sabathia’s Ultimately Earning His Salary

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With his top-notch performance in the Yankees' 10-3 win over the Orioles Wednesday night, CC Sabathia notched his 16th win to break a tie with the Tigers' Justin Verlander for the most victories in the American League. After a rocky start to his tenure in New York, Sabathia has been at the forefront of the surging Yankees' recent dominance over the entire American League.

The Yankees find themselves with the best record in all of baseball at 85-48 (.639), having won six straight games and eight out of their last 10. The team went 21-7 in the month of August, including six victories in games in which CC appeared. In those six starts Sabathia was everything the franchise envisioned when they signed him in the offseason, posting a 2.64 ERA, and surrendering only 14 runs (13 earned) on 36 hits in 44 1/3 innings, striking out 49 while walking only six.

After a terrible start to the season it looked like Sabathia might rank up there with Jack McDowell, Randy Johnson, and Kevin Brown as another in a long line of very expensive pitching mistakes by New York. Both the team and its anointed ace were struggling as volleys of cries from Yankee critics rained down over the entire franchise.

But the naysayers have been proven drastically wrong. In the early days of September, as the season winds its way down to the playoffs, the Yankees stand high atop the American League East, 7.5 games ahead of the increasingly docile Red Sox. Sabathia, after the shaky start, has more than earned his residence in the number one slot in the Yankees rotation, posting a 3.48 ERA and 167 Ks to go with his 16-7 record. His peripherals have been similarly stellar, with CC carrying a 1.134 WHIP with 7.5 K's per 9 against 2.3 BB/9 for a 3.34 K/BB ratio (one of the best of his career).

And almost as important, Sabathia has been the workhorse the Yankees critically lacked last season, leading the AL in innings (199.1), starts (29), and batters faced (807). With the Yankees bullpen developing into a unit of the highest caliber, CC's ability to pitch deep into games has been vital to New York's success, allowing manager Girardi to use Hughes/Rivera very much like his predecessor once used Rivera/Wettland.

As it stands the Yankees are nothing short of an unstoppable force in this regular season. Everyone on the team — including bench players like Eric Hinske — is hitting. The entire bullpen, bolstered by the return of Damaso Marte, has been consistent and dependable. And the starting rotation has been proficient enough (piggybacked by the prolific offense) to win games.

But when playoff time comes around having an ace — especially in the first round five-game series — is crucial, as the Yankees have found out in various recent playoff matchups. With Sabathia once again reaching elite levels late into the season, the Yankees look like they might finally be built correctly for the playoffs, And with their offense firing on all cylinders, and A.J. Burnett, Joba Chamberlain, and (the recently near-perfect) Andy Pettitte ready to capably supplement Sabathia's mastery, all signs seem to point towards a path of collision with their most historic World Series rival and the manager that led the last restoration project of glory and became a Yankee legend in his own right.

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About Anthony Tobis

  • Minderbinder

    It’s great that the Yankees are finally getting their money’s worth during the regular season. Sabathia’s career playoff ERA is 7.92.

  • Tony

    CC has struggled in the playoffs. That is definitely a concern. On the other hand, mentally it may be beneficial to him to know that he has such a prolific offense backing him up. He won’t be relied on so heavily to get it done all by himself. But very good point Mindbinder.

  • Tony

    To be fair, Sabathtia has only pitched 5 games in the postseason and 25 innings. Not exactly a big sample size.

  • winitall

    That’s the thing about the playoffs, especially as a starting pitcher: You don’t GET a big sample size. You get chances here and there, and what you do with them defines how good a playoff performer you are. If you do well, you increase your chances of expanding your sample size. If CC had pitched well in the playoffs, he’d probably have another 3-4 starts and 20-plus innings under his belt. So part of the reason his sample size is so small is because he’s pitched so poorly.

  • Tony

    That, and he played for the Indians and the Brewers. Good teams when they made the playoffs but not the Yankees. He’s pitched poorly in the playoffs no doubt about it. Kind of like Peyton Manning before he won a Super Bowl. And by the way, when you play for the Yankees you do get a big playoff sample size so that should be corrected shortly.

    I know with the Yankees 7.5 up on Boston and with the best record is baseball Yankee-haters are left with nothing to critisize, but you guys are reaching.

  • Minderbinder

    It’s not Yankee hating. The premise of your article is that Sabathia is earning his paycheck after a shaky start to the season. The Yankees could have signed Brad Penny instead of Sabathia and they’d still be in first place in the A.L. East. If CC doesn’t pitch well in the playoffs then he didn’t earn his salary this year. He may end up redeeming himself like Peyton Manning, or he could end up like Dan Marino.

  • Tony

    That’s ridiculous to say that when the Yankees have a 7.5 game lead over the Red Sox that Brad Penny could have supplemented Sabathia’s 16 wins.

  • Minderbinder

    That would be a ridiculous thing to say, but it’s not what I said.

  • Tony

    “The Yankees could have signed Brad Penny instead of Sabathia and they’d still be in first place in the A.L. East.”

    Yeah….it kind of is. Brad Penny is 8-8 (5.28). So if they had Penny and not CC they would lose 8 wins, and probably not be in first place.

  • Minderbinder

    Notice that no where in that sentence did I say that “Brad Penny could have supplemented Sabathia’s 16 wins”. (Supplemented would mean that I thought Penny would have more wins than Sabathia.)

    I think that Penny would have had more than 8 wins if he were pitching for the Yankees, but maybe you are right and the Red Sox have just as good or better offense than the Yankees.

  • Tony

    Yeah you must be right. THe Red Sox do have just as good or better of an offensive than the Yankees. That’s why they are 8.5 games back and in danger of missing the playoff. You can try to spin this any way you want but the Yankees are rolling, the Red Sox just got owned again today, and Sabathia has been very good.