After CC Sabathia‘s first start of the regular season, the lefty’s four-seam and sinker velocity were major narratives following a worrisome start. He’s followed that up with three Sabathia-esque starts, where he was either dominant, or he was able to give the team length and a chance to win. Altogether, he’s pitched 23.0 innings in his last three outings, giving up 4 earned runs, 4 walks, 19 strike outs, and 1 home run. Batters are hitting just .217/.250/.301 off of him, but that doesn’t mean he fixed his velocity.
As I pointed out earlier in the month, Sabathia’s initial struggles on opening day were due to control, and not his lack of velocity. Despite offseason elbow surgery, the southpaw showed tremendous movement on all of his pitches on opening day, a much more important factor following such a procedure. Since then, Sabathia’s movement has continued to impress, but his low velocity has remained.
He’s thrown 426 pitches this year, each of them plotted in the graph above. There was some expectation that Sabathia’s velocity would increase as he was stretched out and developed strength in April, but so far he’s shown no signs of improvement. While his results have been successful, this four-seam speed is at an unprecedented low in his career. PITCHf/x has the ace’s four-seam velocity sitting at 93.9 mph in 2011, and falling to 92.4 mph in 2012. Over his last four games, the average velocity on both his fastballs are illustrated in the chart below.
|Date||Park||FF Velo||SI Velo|
Keep in mind that we’re only 28.0 innings into Sabathia’s 2013 season, but as the innings add up, this starts to look like something significant to watch. As we enter May and June, a pitcher’s velocity should reach its peak, and if Sabathia is still showing diminished speed, we’ll have to start questioning both his health and his weight loss.
For what it’s worth, three of the games he’s pitched have been in Yankee Stadium. Overall, the PITCHf/x cameras in the Bronx have been slightly less friendly than other stadiums, averaging .13 mph less on four-seam fastballs based on pitcher’s average four-seam velocity. This could be due to the cold weather, but there’s a chance that the initial readings from the cameras have been slightly off in calibration.
It would be an understatement to say that the Yankees started the season flat. But all it took was a couple games in Cleveland for the Bombers to start exceeding expectations. Five wins and five losses is far from a hot start, but it leaves the Yankees just one game behind the Red Sox for the AL East lead, and it is precisely the kind of performance the Yankees need to remain in the hunt until Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter return.
Most of the focus has fallen on Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells, new Yankees who have gotten off to unsustainable hot starts to help keep the team competitive, but the best two players on the team have been old hands: Robinson Cano and CC Sabathia. Cano started the season right where he left things off in the playoffs. He was ice cold. Since the opening round versus Boston, however, Robbie has caught fire. He’s put together as strong a 10 games as any in his career, posting a .434 wOBA. If there has been any weakness to Robbie’s game throughout his career it has been his risk to start slowly in the cold months. So far it looks like Cano is getting off to a hot start, and the Yankees will be the beneficiaries.
The Yankees’ slow start was predictable. Once things began going wrong in spring training, a one and four or worse start became a self-fulfilling prophecy. And while the games thus far have been tough to watch, it’s important to remember that there are 157 more games to go. The Yankees have yet to play the equivalent of a single NFL game, and have played the equivalent of two NBA games. For all intents and purposes, nothing has happened yet. That said, despite the season being so young, one disconcerting observation is that the Bombers have been bad on both sides of the ball. They haven’t scored a lot of runs and their pitching has been bad. The surest way for the Yankees to start playing better is for them to start pitching better. There’s no time like the present. CC Sabathia faces off against Justin Verlander today. CC has consistently pitched better his second start of the year in pinstripes (although he’s pitched badly against Detroit) while Verlander hasn’t been unbeatable against the Yankees. Hopefully the big guy can help the team start to play better. Use this as your game thread. Enjoy!
The results of yesterday’s start by CC Sabathia weren’t great, but the left-hander didn’t look as bad as the box score indicates. He gave up 8 hits, 4 walks, 4 earned runs, 5 strike outs in 5.0 innings. Allowing 12 men on is not a good way to show the fans that you’ve recovered from elbow surgery. Half of these eight hits came off ground balls, and half of these came off infield singles. If Jayson Nix had held on to a line drive in the 2nd inning, Sabathia might not have given up any of the 4 runs in that inning.
While the amount of groundballs going for hits were unlucky, he also struggled to locate his pitches. His fastball and slider were wild, and without that, he was forced to live off his changeup. The walks are inexcusable, but for what’s only his third start of the year, there was bound to be an issue somewhere. Yet since Sabathia is coming off his surgery, and his velocity looked like it was down, there was a subsequent panic over the Yankees’ ace.
Early in the game, Sabathia hardly touched 90 mph. That was the spark that led to much of the velocity concern. Around 25 pitches in, Sabathia was throwing around 90-91 with the four-seam fastball, and his sinker remained around 1 mph slow. Note that some of the slower sinkers were misclassified as changeups.
Indeed, he lacked around 2.5 mph on both his four-seam and sinker on Monday. It would be hard to call these pitches flat though, and in fact the movement on his four-seam was considerably stronger than 2012. If Sabathia were suffering from an elbow problem, he’d probably be putting less spin on the pitches, and we’d be seeing a drop off in movement. But he averaged around an inch more vertical movement on his four-seam, sinker, and slider. All three of these pitches posed a control problem to Sabathia yesterday, so it’s possible that the additional movement and wildness were somehow connected. I suspect that there was just a mechanical issue in repeating his delivery, causing him to over spin and in some cases change the spin angle of his pitches.
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Baseball has an unfair advantage over every other sport. The games start when the weather turns warm. For those of us who live in the New York area, this past weekend was the first in a long time that had even a glimmer of warmer weather. It may be a coincidence that the temperatures broke into the high 50s without a cloud in the sky the same weekend as opening day, but it doesn’t feel like it. Baseball is a summertime game and part of the joy of the start of the season is the knowledge that the summertime is coming.
Game one of the season is today at 1pm. The Boston Red Sox will come into the Bronx for the season opener. Once upon a time this would be the start of a 162 game struggle between these two franchises as they battled for first place in the AL East, and possibly the American League. This year things are different. This year ESPN has predicted that these two teams will finish in last place in the AL East, and miss the playoffs. Maybe, but predictions are what sports fans make when games aren’t being played. After today only one thing matters: a team’s record.
CC Sabathia toes the rubber for the Yankees. Last season was CC’s worst in a Yankee uniform (and he was still pretty good), but only because of nagging injuries. His rate stats were as good as they’ve ever been. CC can be a slow starter, so we may not get a vintage performance today, but the Yankees are fighting with their best. Boston will counter with Jon Lester. Lester is looking to bounce back from a legitimately bad season in 2012. His K/9 rate has fallen from a high 9.96 in 2009 all the way down to 7.28 last year. As his strikeouts have gone down his homers have risen, to a career high of 1.10 per nine innings. One game won’t make a season for either of these Aces, but it’s fun to pretend. Use this as your game thread. Enjoy!
Though the season hasn’t even started, the Yankees have already had their depth tested in two positions. Curtis Granderson‘s injury has opened up a spot in the outfield, and the catching situation has been much maligned since the Yankees declined to re-sign Russell Martin and passed on signing A.J. Pierzynski. And with Derek Jeter‘s ankle injury, we’ll see the infield depth tested as Eduardo Nunez and/or Jayson Nix get some time at short to spell the Captain. On the other hand, the pitching seems to be fairly deep.
The bullpen is well-stocked and some pitchers (think Clay Rapada and Cody Eppley) will not last the year on the 25-man roster. Likewise, though not quite as widely, the starting rotation is considered to be an area of strength. It’s certainly a talented rotation featuring CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Hiroki Kuroda. But is it as deep as we think?
Phil Hughes has already suffered an injury. Andy Pettitte is coming off an injury (granted it was a freak, batted ball thing). Kuroda, though he showed few (if any) signs of injury last year, is coming off a career high in innings pitched. Sabathia, godly though he may be is coming off of (relatively minor) elbow surgery. It’s easy to imagine one or more of them missing time over the course of the season. If (when) that happens, where can the Yankees turn?
(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod. And no, that’s not CC reacting to pain in his left elbow. And that’s a good thing)
I jumped on the “reducing CC Sabathia‘s workload” bandwagon early, like as soon as the Yankees announced plans to do that this season. I became a card-carrying member of the “I Support Reducing CC’s Workload Club” two weeks ago when he threw his first bullpen of the spring, a signal that the Yankees were taking the efforts to reduce his workload seriously. And I’m putting down money for the official club t-shirt after finding out last Thursday that the Yankees have pushed CC’s first spring start back to March 15th. Chad Jennings had the details last week, which included Joe’s desire to not have CC face the Blue Jays as scheduled on March 10th. As a result, Sabathia will throw another simulated game on the 10th, make his first official ST start on the 15th, and end up with only three total ST outings under his belt before taking the hill on Opening Day.
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