For what it’s worth, everyone insists that Sabathia is healthy, including the big man himself. Sabathia even dismissed the theory that two trips to the disabled list this season might have left him with some rust that is affecting his command, responding with merely a terse “no” when the question was posed to him Friday afternoon. Of course, he went on to say that he was just not making his pitches when he needed to, which sort of sounded a lot like saying his command was off, something that’s plagued Sabathia literally since Opening Day this year.
The question was a hot topic for a while last night, and the best answer on the subject likely came from TYA’s Mike Eder, who analyzed the Pitch F/X data and concluded that Sabathia might be trying to overthrow the ball, a sentiment that was shared by Russell Martin after the game. That’s as good a theory as any because, really, I think we’re probably overstating Sabathia’s struggles right now. His last start in Tampa Bay might not have been a dominant one, but he finished seven innings and held the Rays to three runs, with just one really hard hit ball all night, a home run by B.J. Upton. Last night was his fourth start since coming off of the disabled list, and he’s basically had one great outing, one clunker, and two where he was varying shades of alright and didn’t get enough help from the rest of the team. Most bizarrely of all: He’s walked just three batters in those four starts, and none of them came in the two games in which he allowed five runs. He has, however, surrendered a home run in each of those games.
So is Sabathia hurt? I don’t think so, if only because I see no incentive for the team to lie about it at this point in the season. With expanded rosters there’s no reason to fret about putting him on the disabled list, and it’s not like the team is trying to trade C.C., so if he is hurt, there’s no obvious incentive for the Yankees to keep running him out to the mound every five days if he’s a liability to their chances. Perhaps Sabathia is hiding something from everyone, but that would be a bit odd to do now, after he’s been on the DL twice already this year.
Or maybe Sabathia is just having a slightly down year, and is merely pitching like a very good starter instead of a perennial Cy Young candidate. His ERA- (84) and FIP- (82) are both still pretty good, and his xFIP is right in line with where he was last season. That suggests that Sabathia has been a bit unlucky this season, but in any case he’s also been pretty good on the whole. He just hasn’t been the dominant ace we’ve come to expect him to be, and that frustration is doubled by the suddenly too-tight chase for the division crown.