CC Sabathia has undoubtedly been the ace that the Yankees have lacked going into their last several post-season campaigns. But will he remain so in October?
CC detractors will point to his combined 2-3 record with a 7.92 ERA and a hideous 2.200 WHIP in 5 total post-season starts. His defenders will likely point out that his worst post-season performances (in 2007 and 2008) came on the heels of his having carried a heavy load late in the season just to get his teams (Indians and then Brewers) into the post-season.
What does the evidence show?
In 2007 it was not an issue of rest days – CC did not pitch on less than 4 days rest a single time during the 2007 season and post-season. Now he did carry a heavy load in the games he did pitch – especially late in the regular season. During his last 14 regular season starts that year he threw more than 100 innings – averaging more than 7.0 IP/game. He was incredibly effective in those starts – giving up 4 runs once, 3 runs twice, and 2 or fewer runs eleven times despite going deep into every game. His regular season-IP total was 241 and he had an extra day of rest between his last pitch of the regular season and his first pitch in Game 1 of the ALDS vs. the Yankees. In that game he threw 114 pitches in just 5 innings, giving up 3 runs but ultimately getting the win thanks to the first of what would be two horrendous starts by Chien-Ming Wang. He then had a full 7 days off before starting what would be his biggest post-season clunker in Game 1 of the ALCS vs. Boston: 8 ER and 5 BB in just 4.1 IP. He was pulled after throwing just 85 pitches. He then had regular rest before laying another – albeit smaller – egg in Game 5 of that ALCS (6 IP, 4 ER, 2 BB). Was 241 IP in the regular season too much? He had only thrown more than 200 innings once before and it was five years earlier (2002) when he threw 210 IP. Or were the Yankees and then the Red Sox just too strong? Or some combination? Who knows.
In 2008 it was such a different story that I hesitate to even take his poor performance in the one post-season game in which he pitched very seriously. He put on one of the most heroic late-season pitching runs in modern baseball history to virtually single-handedly carry Milwaukee into October. He started 4 straight games on short rest in late September – averaging more than 7 IP per start in that stretch (including his final regular season start – a complete game in which only one unearned run was scored). In those 4 critical games he gave up a total of 6 ER and 4 BB and compiled a 1.88 ERA. His regular season IP-total had bulged to 253 and he got only 3 days rest before starting Game 2 of the NLDS vs. Philadelphia, when the walls finally caved in: he only went 3.2 innings giving up 5 ER (all in the second inning) and 4 walks.
So what can we expect from CC tonight after the 230 IP he gave the Yankees this season? One thing to watch for is his walk total. Whether CC has pitched well or poorly in his 5 total post-season games, one thing he has done way too much of is give up free bases. In 5 post-season games in which he has never gone more than 6.0 innings, CC has walked a total of 22 batters, including 5 walks in his first (and best) post-season start when he went 6.0 IP and gave up 2 ER vs. Seattle in the 2001 ALDS. Will the confidence he has in a powerhouse Yankee line-up free him up to pitch more aggresively in and around the stike-zone and keep the walks down? I certainly hope so.
The Posada Factor: One indicator that I hesitate to raise, but is pertinent given last night's news that Molina – and not Posada – will catch AJ Burnett's start on Friday night, is CC's track record throwing to Posada. I love Posada and hate to give fodder to his critics, but Girardi's and Cashman's decision regarding AJ's start simply begs the question. So here goes…
In his career CC has thrown to 12 different catchers. It is in the 15 games that Posada has caught that CC's worst SO:BB ratio; opponent BA; opponent OBP; and opponent OPS have all been compiled. Is this due to the increased competition he has faced since moving to the AL East? Well, in his 10 starts throwing to Cervelli and his 10 to Molina, he has some of his best stats across these categories. Throw out his pairing with Sal Fasano (since it was only for one game) and this is where the various CC/Cervelli, CC/Molina, and CC/Posada pairings rank among the eleven catchers not named Sal Fasano to whom CC has thrown in his career:
CC/Cervelli (10 games): 3.65 SO:BB - 3rd; .191 BA – 1st; .244 OBP – 1st; .551 OPS – 1st
CC/Molina (10 games): 6.33 SO:BB – 1st; .233 BA – 4th; .273 OBP – 3rd; .622 OPS – 3rd
CC/Posada (15 games): 1.55 SO:BB – 11th; .262 BA – 11th; .344 OBP – 11th; .758 OPS – 11th
Small sample sizes? Yes and no. However small they are, they are no greater than the samples that Girardi and Cash had to go on when deciding who would catch AJ. Regardless, here is to hoping that CC's last two post-seasons and his performance when throwing to Posada this year have little to do with how he pitches tonight and the rest of this October.
10 replies on “CC – With a Little Bit of Posada”
wow. those posada numbers suprise me. i’m tempted to throw them out as small sample. i don’t quite know what to make of cc’s last start. i guess we’ll see!
is the weather going to clear up today?
Yeah YF – I did not have the time to look at who CC faced in his starts with these respective catchers and that woudl of course matter – the kind of thing that would likely get evened out over larger sample sizes but might still playh a big role in explaining these differentials over the combined 35 games he pitched to these 3 guys. I did look at BAbip and it does not explain it all that much. CC’s BAbip with Jorge is .297; with Molina it’s .311; with Cervelli it’s .211 – so Cervelli’s numbers with CC may be a little skewed tothe positive but not sufficiently to disregard the 1st to 11th gap between the two in these rankings…and of course, Molina has been less lucky than Jorge by this measure. And the Jorge BAbip is right smack in the middle of the range that icnludes all the other catchers he has thrown to.
Where’s the prediction thread where we’re all wrong? ;)
What weather are you talking about Brad? It’s beautiful in NY today.
Great analysis IH. I’m shocked at how poorly he does with Posada, so it will be interesting to see what happens tonight.
More stat-fun for the Yanks-Twins ALDS…
Before fellow YFs jump too fast on the Pavano-will-fail train, please note what Pavano has done to the Yankees this year:
2 G; 13.1 IP; 2.70 ERA; 1 BB; 0.900 WHIP; 8.00 SO:BB ratio; .224 BAA; .255 OBP
Every one of these cumulative stats are the best that he has compiled against any of the 14 teams he faced this year other than his .244 OBP and 2.42 ERA compiled in 3 games vs. the Chicago White Sox. You know how badly he’d like to stick it to the Yanks after the derogatory revelations about what his NYY teamates thought and said about him while he was collecting his fat paycheck there.
I don’t wish the guy injury – just failure. A very physically healthy failure.
Great stuff, IH. I’m blown away by those Posada numbers. I tend to think that kind of stuff is noise, and the difference between what Cervelli and Molina get probably is, but that’s a huge jump. Very surprising.
And encouraging, I might add. :-)
Tx Paul. I think. Your joy is my anxiety :)
On the way to the stadium right now – LET’S GO CC!!!!!!
he’s no “handler” of pitchers, but a bit better offensively than most