Former Cy Young award winner CC Sabathia was supposed to be the ace of the New York Yankees staff when they re-signed him to a five-year, $182 million contract back in 2011. The Yankees, of course, had hopes that the big left-hander would continue to be as dominant as he was in the past, but Sabathia has not delivered recently. He has been going downhill after leading the Yankees to a World Series title in 2009, and it doesn’t look like it will turn around soon.
Sabathia’s first few years in New York went well, with double-digit wins and single digit losses, and an ERA slightly above 3.00 each year until 2013, where he went 14-13. But things took a turn for the worst in 2014 when Sabathia’s season was cut short after he needed knee surgery. His 2014 season was dismal, with a record of just 3-4 and an ERA of 5.28 in eight starts.
After making a few rehab starts, there was hope that the 35-year-old Sabathia could return to ace form for the 2015 season. After losing his first four starts, the hope soon faded. Sabathia is currently 3-7 on the season, with an ERA north of 5.50. He has allowed 109 hits in 87 2/3 innings this year, and only struck out 78 batters. His low strikeout count and high hit count is a result of years of fatigue on his left arm. In his 15-year career, he has thrown 180+ innings in each year except for 2014, when he missed most of the season. His 2,909 innings throw are the third most among active pitchers. Sabathia has also throw over 40,000 pitches in his big league career.
Now throwing 40,000 pitches at full speed will do some damage to your arm, and it has certainly affected Sabathia. His fastball has not been as blazing as it once was, routinely topping around 92-93 these days. That’s nothing compared to when he used to throw 97 in the last inning of a complete game when he was a member of the Cleveland Indians. Sabathia has tried working his breaking ball in more, but it has caught up to him. Hitters know that they wont be blown away by his fastball anymore, and can sit and drive any of Sabathia’s pitches.
But what should the Yankees do with Sabathia? He has acted as sort of a leader towards the younger Yankees pitching staff, but that’s about all he has contributed. The Yankees could keep him in the bullpen so he could act as that father-figure role that every staff needs, or they could send him down. But I doubt they will send him down. Right now, the Yankees are using a six-man rotation, with Sabathia sitting in the 3rd starter spot. If they want to be serious contenders this year, they need to put him in the bullpen to protect his shoulder, or make him the 6th starter so they can limit the amount of losses he gives them
CC Sabathia’s days as an ace are over. He could still be a valuable member of the Yankees staff, but he needs to have a new role so they stop losing games when he toes the rubber. If they were to send him down, they need to call up Luis Severino. This kid has been tearing it up in the minors, and is a strong arm that the Yankees could use in their rotation. There are certainly a lot of options the Yankees can explore with CC Sabathia, but they need to do something soon to limit the damage already created.