Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New York Yankees: CC Sabathia unravels again

The New York Yankees faced former second baseman Robinson Cano for the first time since he signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners this past offseason. Cano was not a big factor in the Mariners 6-3 victory over the Yankees. Instead, CC Sabathia once again had a meltdown inning and forced an overused bullpen to work four more innings.

As has been the theme in all but one of Sabathia’s starts this season, there was a particular inning (or in one case two innings) in which things got away from him. What’s especially frustrating is there seems to be no immediate indication that the meltdown is coming, other than the fact that it’s been a regular occurrence at some point in all but one of Sabathia’s starts.

Tuesday night it was the fifth inning. Sabathia was not exactly dominant to this point, but he was able to make some pitches when it mattered and was nursing a 2-0 lead. Five hits and four runs the later the Yankees were down for good as the offense remains stagnant.

Below is a breakdown of five of Sabathia’s six starts in which he has pitched well for a majority of his time on the mound only to be undone by a singular inning.

There is a correlation in a few starts where the meltdown occurred during the fifth or sixth inning. Looking at Sabathia’s stats against hitters this season during their third plate appearance, things become a little clearer.

Opposing hitters are stroking .347/.360/.571 in their third plate appearance against Sabathia. I don’t think this a matter of tiring, but more that Sabathia’s pitches are no longer fooling anyone the third time through the order (if they were fooled in the first place).

Sabathia’s diminished velocity has been discussed ad nauseam, but it’s become more the fact that his ancillary pitches are not coming along quick enough to compensate for the slowed fastball.

Sabathia is still a good pitcher. He looked strong in parts of Tuesday’s game and I believe he can work through these issues, but it is going to take some time. It is now important for Sabathia to establish sound mechanics at the outset of the game and maintain them throughout his appearance.

Once he falters, he pays the price because he does not have an overpowering fastball, or a new out pitch, to get him out of jams. The sooner he finds that new go-to pitch, the sooner he can work comfortably into the latter parts of games without getting knocked around. Until then, expect the bullpen to be a big part of Sabathia's starts and the frustrations to mount.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.