The 2012 season has been a mixed bag for Yankee ace CC Sabathia. Before his most recent DL stint, the left hander posted a hard-earned 3.45 ERA. Not to say he hasn’t been successful, but Sabathia just hasn’t been the flat out dominant force that we’re used to seeing. Last month, I called the rotation on Sabathia’s pitches sluggish, and the results included slower pitches with less movement. In his last start of June, Sabathia struggled retiring the Mets, going 5.2 innings, and giving up 5 runs on 9 hits, with only 3 strikeouts. After that start, the Yankees placed the starter on the disabled list, and it took 23 days for Sabathia to recover from a strained groin.
Last night’s first post-DL start was perhaps one of his best performances of the year. Against a tough Blue Jays offense, CC went 6.0 innings (limited by the pitch count), giving up only 4 hits, 1 walk, no runs, and earning 6 strikeouts. The efficiency on the mound was typical Sabathia, throwing 87 pitches and 66 strikezs, and only allowed two runners to reach scoring position. If the results weren’t enough, PITCHf/x is showing that he’s regained velocity, as well as a substantial amount of movement.
|Pitch Typer||Avg Speed||Max Speed||H Mvt||V Mvt|
Comparing his pre-DL and post-DL starts above, you’ll see that he’s gained from .5 to a full 1 MPH of additional velocity in both the average speed and maximum speed. The difference in movement is the most exciting change, he’s adding adding 2 inches of additional rising action on both his fastballs, as well as an inch on the slider. The changeup is also matching the movement of the sinker very well, and Sabathia noted the improvements on this pitch in his post game interview. The biggest change last night was the increase in RPM, and there were quite a few instances where he was hitting the upper 2,000′s in RPM on the fastball. In his previous start against the Mets, the four-seam was only averaging 1,700 RPM, but after his three week break, he was much closer to his average 2,000.
I’ve synced two four-seam fastballs above, one from his pre-DL start on June 24th, and one from last night. Both pitches are representative of the average four-seam thrown those nights, and there is hardly any difference at all. When slowed down, he does appear to stay back before the torque slightly more. While this would make sense due to possible groin issues on June 24th, Sabathia believes the difference had more to do with his arm.
“We’ll see. Like I said, I felt really good today,” he said. “The rest was better for my arm than my groin.”
Whether the improvements made in this start were from the arm or groin, Sabathia can hopefully show more consistency in the second half. Last night, he looked nearly unhittable, and he’d be a big boost to the rotation and the overworked bullpen if he can maintain the way he pitched in his first game back.