Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
CC Sabathia, now listed at a stealthy 285 pounds, may be in the best shape of his life. So naturally, his stats are at an all-time worst.
Sabathia's 2014 season has given us good, bad and a whole lot of ugly. Overall, the 6-foot-7 left-hander is 1-2 with a 6.63 ERA.
None of that screams "Opening Day starter" or "$23 million a year starter," which is exactly how much the Yankees are paying Sabathia this season.
Really, this is a continuation of what we saw last season from Sabathia. Heading into the 2013 campaign, Sabathia owned a career ERA of 3.50 across 2,564 1/3 major league innings. In 230 innings since then, his ERA has been just under five (4.93).
Sabathia just doesn't intimidate hitters like he used to. Opponents are hitting .269 against CC this year, 22 percentage points higher than his career average (.247). He's also been taken deep five times, putting Sabathia on pace to give up 62 homers this season. That's 12 more than Bert Blyleven allowed when he set the major league record of 50 in 1986.
Sabathia's struggles might be linked to his steep decline in velocity. The average reading on Sabathia's fastball in 2014 is only 89.1 mph. Compare that to the 92.9 mph fastball Sabathia threw during his only Cy Young season in '07 or even the 92.3 mph heater he clocked as recently as 2012.
If you're looking for a pattern with CC, look at how he begins and finishes each start. While Sabathia has cruised through innings 2-5 (1.50 ERA in 12 innings), the first and sixth frames have been trouble areas for the left- hander. All four of the runs he allowed Friday versus Boston came in the sixth and three of the four he gave up to Toronto were in that same inning. The Blue Jays' other run came in the first, which is when Houston scored four of its six runs against CC on Opening Day. If you add it all up, Sabathia's ERA in the first and sixth innings this season is a pitiful 18.00.
Navigating his way out of jams used to be Sabathia's specialty. This season, it's been his undoing. Sabathia's 58.8 percent strand rate is sixth-worst among 100 qualified starting pitchers this year. It's also 13.8 percent lower than his career average (72.6).
Sure, there's been some bad luck along the way. Opponents are hitting .308 on balls in play against Sabathia this season, a noticeable increase from his career mark of .293. But that still doesn't explain Sabathia's exceedingly generous .300 batting average against with runners on base.
If there's anything CC can hang his sideways hat on, it's his respectable 1.26 WHIP and a career-best 9.95 strikeouts per nine innings. Plus, his heavy reliance on sinkers (he's using it on a career-high 30.4 percent of his pitches this season) has led to a much improved ground ball rate (1.48 G/F is eighth-best in MLB).
We're 13 games into the season so there's plenty of time for Sabathia to turn things around. But will he? Dates with the Red Sox and Rays in three of his next four starts won't make life any easier for the soon-to-be 34-year-old.
When it comes to New York's baggy pants-wearing left-hander, there's not a lot for fantasy owners to be optimistic about. But at least he's in great shape, right?
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