Even going back to his days with the Cleveland Indians, CC Sabathia has always an easy choice to tab as the Opening Day starter. He’s a leader, a workhorse, and a damn good pitcher. Unfortunately he doesn’t do well pitching on Opening Day.
Look at these lines from the past few Opening Days:
- 2013: 5 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 0 HR
- 2012: 6 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 2 HR
- 2011: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 0 HR
- 2010: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 0 HR
- 2009: 4.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 0 K, 0 HR
- 2008: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 2 HR
- 2007: 6 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HR
- 2006: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 0 HR
His ERA over the span is a terrible 7.36. Now typically small sample sizes like this are not indicators of much, but considering even the best start on that list is bad then I think it’s safe to say that CC doesn’t come out of the gate running on all cylinders.
This brings me to Sabathia’s velocity. When he was in his prime his velocity sat in the 96-97 mph range. While he has always been more about pitch-ability, working in his changeup and slider, and command it doesn’t hurt to work with a 96 mph heater.
Yesterday, Sabathia was far from a 96-97 mph heater though as he topped out at just 91.7 mph. Just as a reference, he topped out at 94.5 mph on Opening Day in 2012 and on Opening Day 2011 it was 94.7 mph.
So there certainly has been a drop-off this year and considering he’s coming off of offseason elbow surgery there is reason to be concerned. Considering it has only been one start I think he deserves some slack before we go and start panicking though because the surgery means he’s had a slower start than typical.
CC barely even pitched in Spring Training. Now, he did pitch, but he only made two starts against major leaguers and only tossed 10 innings in those starts. He was stretched out because of games against minor leaguers, but with everything he’s gone through it is doubtful that he was really airing it out, especially early on.
Here we have a guy who is typically a slow starter who got an even later start than normal. It’s not CC’s fault, it’s just the nature of coming off surgery. Things need to be taken slow and Sabathia is a smart guy and knows this. It should be expected that it would take him a little longer to build up arm strength than usual.
So before anybody starts panicking over Sabathia’s diminished velocity, I say we give him the benefit of the doubt and wait a few weeks, maybe even a month, before we start to declare him done or a non-ace.
What’s most important right now is that he regains that command because without it we’ll see a lot of starts like yesterday’s velocity or not. And even more importantly we have to hope that the Yankees, especially considering their lineup limitations, don’t fall too far behind the pack while we’re waiting for CC to get up to speed.
By the way, Sabathia might not have thrown enough this offseason to really come into camp in great shape because of the surgery, but he was working hard during the offseason. He was significantly skinnier than at any other point during his Yankee career. It’s impossible to say if that affected his velocity, but it’s a good sign that his work ethic is as strong as ever.
• Alex Rodriguez spoke with reporters for the first time since his latest steroid scandal broke. He essentially said nothing except that he’s not worried about being the target of a MLB investigation.
• A-Rod was not introduced with the rest of the team, even though Mark Teixeira was, and when he conducted interviews it was without the backdrop that everyone else had, Joe Girardi, ect. Does anybody else think that’s weird?
• Mark Teixeira, torn tendon sheath in his wrist, got some great news yesterday as doctors were “very happy with how (the injured wrist) is healing” and he’s been given the go ahead to remove the wrist brace. We’re still looking at a mid-May return, but it sounds like he may avoid surgery.
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