In his first start of the season, CC Sabathia faced the Toronto Blue Jays and gave up five runs (four earned) on eight hits in only 5 ⅔ innings to pick up the loss. But he also struck out eight, didn’t walk a batter and didn’t surrender a home run. Last night’s game was similar in many ways.
"Lucky" Seven and Adam Jones
Seven was a big number for Sabathia last night. He pitched seven innings, gave up seven hits and struck out seven. He also gave up four runs, walked one batter and gave up a home run to Adam Jones. Jones had two RBI last night. He also hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third.
Jones has faced Sabathia more than any other pitcher in baseball (72 plate appearances) and he is batting .273/.306/.545/.851 with four home runs, four doubles, a triple and 14 RBI, but Sabathia shouldn't feel too bad because eight games into the 2015 season, Jones is batting .429/.469/.929/1.397 with a .579 wOBA and a 278 wRC+. He's victimizing everyone equally.
Pitches and Results
- CC threw 22 sinkers, two of which yielded Jones's home run and Caleb Joseph's triple. He also got two strikeouts on his sinker.
- He threw 18 four seam fastballs. He gave up a walk and a single but also struck out one batter.
- He favored his slider last night with favorable results. He threw it 31 times and while he surrendered three singles with it, he also struck out three batters.
- And finally, we have his changeup. He threw 20 and he struck out one and gave up one single.
According to Brooks Baseball, during last night's game, CC averaged 89.63 mph on his four seamer, 88.68 on his sinker, 84.11 on his change and 77.95 on his slider but you can see that he did almost reach 91 mph a few times.
In his first start against Toronto, CC played around with more pitches - he tried a cutter; he threw more pitches - 95 in only 5 2/3 innings - and his average fastball velocity was slightly lower at 89.3 mph.
I know that some reports today are probably of the doom and gloom variety about Sabathia because he was averaging barely 90 mph on his fastball again, but seven strikeouts to one walk in seven innings of work is a good very sign.
Slugging the Sinkers
Jones's home run came on an 89.7 mph sinker on the third pitch of his first inning at bat:
Joseph's triple came on an 89.1 sinker on the first pitch of his seventh inning at bat:
More Good Signs or Looking at the World Through Pinstripe Glasses
Even though his ERA is a robust 5.68 through two starts, his FIP and xFIP are 1.86 and 1.67 respectively. This means that he's been keeping his walks down, his strike outs up and he has been limiting his home runs (10.66 K/9, 0.71 BB/9 and 0.71 HR/9), but it also means he's giving up a high amount of hits (his BABIP is .389) which is why teams are scoring on him.
Another good sign for CC is that so far this season, his ground ball rate is 67.6% and his fly ball rate is only 12.5%. As my former colleague Katie Sharp wrote yesterday, it's possible Sabathia could reinvent himself as a ground ball pitcher. And if he can keep it that way and if the Yankees' defense can begin to normalize behind him and play like they were projected to play, it's very possible that Sabathia could improve and surprise everyone with a sneaky good performance this season.
[Information, numbers and pictures courtesy of Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference and Fangraphs]