For his part, Sabathia has pledged to work hard at staying in shape this season. “It’s up to me to take away any possible factors and be ready and strong the whole year,” he said.
For what it’s worth, I think accounts of Sabathia’s “fade” are grossly overstated. First and foremost, to expect him to have maintained the level of performance he displayed from his June 25th start through August 1st is just wholly unrealistic, so some of this “fade” was simply a bit of regression to the mean. Secondly, Sabathia’s late season numbers really weren’t as bad as they appear at first glance. For example, though his ERA for August was a rather unsightly 4.68, he maintained excellent peripherals (45 strikeouts and just 5 walks allowed in 42.1 IP), and 12 of the 22 earned runs he allowed came in two starts against Boston and Tampa Bay. In Septmeber, his walk rate increased noticeably (perhaps as a result of pitching every sixth day instead of every fifth day, which Sabathia notes he wasn’t comfortable with), but his strikeout rate was a very robust 9.9 batters per nine innings and his ERA was 3.08. Over the two combined months, Sabathia pitched to a 4.04 ERA with 9.65 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. And if you remove those two starts against the Red Sox and Rays, his ERA goes all the way down to 3.11. That’s not bad at all for the worst 1/3 of an ace’s season.
Still, the Yankees have made a very large commitment to Sabathia, so any effort to take care of his body is a good thing. He’s always been the picture of durability throughout his career, but that could change in an instant, especially as he gets deeper into his 30’s and with the mileage he’s racked up thus far. Asking those knees to carry a little less weight can, probably, only be a good thing for him in the long run, but I for one would definitely sign up for a repeat of 2011, performance wise, from C.C.