2011 Season in Review: CC Sabathia

Before the 2008 season when the Twins were dangling Johan Santana in front of the Yankees, Brian Cashman could have made the easy move and dealt a package of players for him as the Yankees badly needed an ace. Instead he resisted and decided to hold on to those players and targeted The Big Man, CC Sabathia, as a free agent.

The move paid off big time for the Yankees as all of the players the Twins were interested in ended up playing a part of the 2009 World Series and Sabathia put the team on his back en route to a playoff run where he went 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA in his first season in Pinstripes. Since then he has served as the unquestionable ace in the Bronx.

EXPECTATIONS: Coming into this season the expectations surrounding Sabathia were like his waist line, huge. In his first two seasons with the Bombers he lead the league in wins while averaging over 230 innings a year. Nothing short of that would be acceptable going forward.

HIS BEST YEAR YET: How did he live up to those expectations? With his best year in Pinstripes yet. This year he had his lowest ERA with the Yankees (3.00), his highest K/9 (8.7), his lowest BB/9 (2.3) and his lowest HR/9 (0.6). He was so good at one point this season that when he wrapped up the season with a 3.28 ERA over the final seven games a lot of fans considered him to be slumping, even though that is clearly far from the truth.

WORKHORSE: How incredibly durable has he been for the Yankees? Consider this, this year he was coming off of knee surgery and pitched for a third of the season in a 6-man rotation and still managed to log 237.1 innings. Fans may be worried that he is overweight, but nothing about his performance has indicated that there should be any concern.

POSTSEASON: This is where people tend to have problems with him as he has a 5.84 ERA over the last two postseasons. However, if context matters to you this shouldn’t be a big deal. Last season against the Rangers he was less than stellar, but shouldn’t have taken the mound at all as he had a torn meniscus in his knee that required surgery immediately after the playoffs ended (the same injury that essentially ruined Alex Rodriguez‘s season).

Then this time around he was pitching well against Detroit in game one until rain interrupted. That forced him to pitch on 2-day rest in back-to-back games rendering him ineffective. It’s very hard to blame him for either of those unfortunate circumstances.

OPT-OUT: CC now has a decision to make regarding his career and it looms very large. Without Sabathia in the rotation next year the Yankees would be looking at A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, and Ivan Nova fronting their rotation. I’m scared just typing that. The Yankees managed to be very good this season by piecing together a rotation, without Sabathia there is no chance they could do that again.

VERDICT: Can’t get too much better than the year CC put together. He is amazing on the mound and a positive influence off of it. When other team’s pitchers are drinking beer and eating fried chicken, Sabathia is the consummate professional. Nobody wants to see the Yankees handing out 7-year deals, but right now we are watching a Hall of Fame pitcher in the prime of his career. If you are not enjoying it, you should probably go watch another sport because baseball is not for you. The way the playoffs played out for him was unfortunate though, but that says more about the Yankees lack of depth in the rotation that forced him to go on 2-days rest, twice!

GOING FORWARD: We are waiting if fear of what he might do this offseason. Hopefully he stays put without burdening the Yankees with another mega deal. However, it could be 2008 all over again without him. Speaking of which, I wonder what Sidney Ponson is doing these days.

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6 Responses to 2011 Season in Review: CC Sabathia

  1. Bronx_Knight says:

    I second everything you say here. CC is a very special ballplayer. You don't notice it at first, because he is not necessarily as dominant as other top pitchers. But he keeps you in almost every game he starts, and he pitches deep into almost every game he starts. On top of that, he is a classy guy (Canz-a-City notwithstanding).

    He's a big fat guy but he's still only 30 and he rebounded excellently from last year's knee surgery. Plus by all accounts during last year's offseason he replaced his daily box of Cap'n Crunch with a box of whole-grain Cheerios.

    I would love to see him back. Hopefully they can put a deal together that makes sense. Given CC's proven excellence, plus the state of the pitching market, obviously he has to get more money than the $23 million x 4 years he is opting out of. Question is, how much more?

  2. Tanned Tom says:

    Here's a choice: CC for $26 mil for the next 7 years, or Buehrle at $16 mil for 3 years AND C.J. Wilson for $17 mil for 6 years. Think about this because this could really be the choice. Sabathia's been great, but he's not in shape, and this is something you can get away with at 30 that you can't at 37. 1 great pitcher for $182 mil or 2 good pitchers for $150 mil? If you say you'd prefer the 1 great pitcher with conditioning concerns then you'd better take another look at the rotation, because it's the worst part of the team. I say let CC walk and sign the other 2 guys.

  3. Bronx_Knight says:

    Good analysis, Tom. I would snap up Buehrle at $16M x 3. I would definitely pass on Wilson at $17M x 6. Maybe $17M x 2. In my opinion he's not really a proven quantity as a starter.

    But let's say you let CC walk and you get two guys like Buehrle and Wilson instead. I think you're looking at a team that's built to make the playoffs and then get bounced in the first round. Dominant starting pitchers win playoff series. Buhrle and Wilson are more middle-rotation guys.

    Buehrle and Wilson would be a great plan for a mid-market team happy to make the playoffs. The Yankees are not happy unless they win the World Series. I think we need CC, even at $26M x 7. Plus Buehrle at $16M x 3. Wilson can stay in Texas.

    • Wait, Knight you are right about CJ and Buehrle for the playoffs, But CC IS THE SAME during playoffs, he had a very good 2009 postseason but everything else has been so bad, not even decent, it has been horrible.
      Something else: Rangers and Cardinals, do they have aces there, those rotations are horrible and they beat Phillies and Tigers, you also need bats and not waste all your money in CC, If he wants a deal like C Lee or Halladay, let's bring him back but if he wants more, get out of here I'm tired of guys asking for more money to play for the Yankees show some heart for your team.

  4. Bronx_Knight says:

    Gonzalo, I agree, there are limits. I forget the particulars but I would say the Yankees could offer CC a deal similar to the one Cliff Lee turned down last year, which was pretty rich. Certainly there are limits.

    As for this year's Rangers, I don't think they have a horrible rotation — three starters with sub-4.00 ERAs and one guy (CJ Wilson) sub-3.00. Same thing for the Cards — four starters with sub-4.00 ERAs.

  5. David K. says:

    Both Texas and St. Louis made it to the WS with decent but not great rotations. Philly with its fabulous Hall of Fame rotation got bounced in one round. You're making my point here: it woulld be nice to have CC but if I'm spending 7yrs at that kind of money, better to go with two pitchers who are not quite as good during the regular season but may be just as good during the post-season. The trick will be what two pitchers to replace him with. I'm now getting sour on CJ Wilson, who is proving that he can't get it done in the post-season either. That's all we'd need: another one who can't get it done in the playoffs.