Short Nerd Chief

C.C. Sabathia Turns A Corner?

Posted by Fred on April 23, 2008

Suffice it to say, C.C. Sabathia’s 6 inning, 0 ER, 11 strikeout performance last night was by far his best start of 2008.  The Game Score of 73 would put it #7 among his starts in 2007, and makes it the team’s third-best start of 2008 (behind Cliff Lee’s last two starts).  In the abstract, it would have been nice to see him pitch beyond the sixth inning, but at 102 pitches and with a 11-0 lead, there was absolutely no reason to do so.  Following consecutive starts in which he gave up 9 runs in each start, this was a delight to watch (perhaps there was actually something to Carl Willis’ comment that he had a good bullpen session).  The question becomes whether this is the Old C.C. back again or the product of a free-swinging Royals team.  Looking at the data, there are promising signs that C.C. has turned some sort of corner.

Coming into this start, it was clear that Sabathia was having trouble locating his pitches, particularly with two strikes.  He had walked an uncharacteristically high 14 batters in 18 innings while striking out only 14.  In addition, he was throwing far fewer sliders than in years past – in 2007, he threw 22% sliders; coming into last night he had thrown only 12% sliders, leading some to suspect an undisclosed injury.

Pitch f/x data from last night indicates that Sabathia did a far better job locating his pitches (thanks as usual to Dan Brooks for the charts).  When he missed he was missing low, rather than off the plate but belt high as in previous starts:

Sabathia_location_042208

This better control was obvious – C.C. only walked two batters while striking out 11, and only had eight 3-ball counts all night.  C.C. also did a better job placing his pitches with two strikes.  He had 41 2-strike counts against the Royals, and threw 60% strikes in such counts.  Of the 15 Royals C.C. took to two strikes, he struck out 11 (73%) and only allowed 3 to reach base (on walks in the fifth and sixth and a third inning single by David DeJesus).  Overall, 67% of Sabathia’s 102 pitches last night were strikes.

C.C. also relied far more on his slider than in previous starts.  Last night, he threw 26% sliders, inducing swinging strikes on 35% of them.  In fact, 60% of the swings-and-misses in last night’s start came on sliders.  Sabathia also relied on the slider as an out pitch, as a full 40% of his two strike pitches were sliders.  9 of Sabathia’s 11 strikeouts were on sliders and 7 of the 8 strikeouts coming on swinging strikes were on sliders.

Count Fastball Slider Change-up
0-2 3 37.5% 3 37.5% 2 25%
1-2 8 50.0% 7 43.8% 1 6.2%
2-2 6 54.5% 5 45.5% 0 0.0%
3-2 3 60.0% 1 20.0% 1 20.0%
Total 20 50.0% 16 40.0% 4 10.0%

Finally, whereas Sabathia’s pitches were relatively flat in his previous 4 starts, he had excellent movement last night, particularly on the slider:

Sabathia_break_042208

Oh, and the offense was pretty good, too, led by Casey Blake’s 4 hit, 6 RBI night, which included two doubles and a grand slam.

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