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Posts Tagged ‘CC Sabathia’

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:


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:


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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A tale of two pitchers: Sabathia and Lee

Posted by Fred on April 22, 2008

Call it the circle of blogging – first Jason Kottke posts an ode to the knuckleball.  Then I pointed him toward the fascinating pitchf/x charts Josh Kalk has compiled from the Sportvision/MLB data, and Jason posted that.  Then I ended up finding a bunch more pitchf/x resources.  MLB posts the raw data in a bunch of XML files that you can parse via Excel (crudely) or SQL (more sophisticated).  I took a look at Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia to see if there are any trends that may explain why C.C. is winless with a 13.50 ERA and Cliff is undefeated with a 0.40 ERA, when by all accounts those results should be reversed.

Here is some pitch location data for their last respective starts, courtesy of Dan Brooks (Jnai from the Sons of Sam Horn board) and his Totally Unofficial PitchFX Graph Tool.  For C.C., it’s the 11-2 thrashing by the Tigers, in which he got lit up for 9 runs again.  For Cliff, it’s a dominant 4-0 win over the Twins, in which he gave up no runs and struck out 8 in 8 innings:


C.C. is on the left and Lee on the right.  The sense we all have that Sabathia can’t find the plate would appear to be true.  Further, he is invariably missing belt-high and up on both sides of the plate.  Lee’s pitches are largely in the strike zone, and when he misses he is missing inside to righties and low.  Some of this is undoubtedly explained by Sabathia’s reticence to throw his slider – his percentage of sliders has dropped from 22% in 2007 to 12% this year – and reliance on his changeup.

When C.C. has thrown his slider, it has significantly less break than it did last year.  Here is the horizontal and vertical break data for C.C. in 2007, from Josh Kalk’s data:


Here is the same data for 2008 to date:


Some of this can be explained by the smaller sample size, but the general trend seems clear.  Sabathia’s pitches don’t have the range of movement they had last year – his slider is breaking horizontally out of the zone, but it’s staying essentially flat vertically.  A slider that doesn’t slide is just asking to be turned into a screaming line drive.  Lee’s pitches, on the other hand, are anything but flat.  He doesn’t throw very many sliders (6 so far), but his curve, fastball and change are all breaking vertically and horizontally (as we examined yesterday), making him more effective even though his fastball is 5 MPH slower:


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Sabathia wins Cy Young

Posted by Fred on November 13, 2007


CC Sabathia is your 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner, joining Gaylord Perry (1972) as the only Indians to win the award.  he’s also the first African-American to win since Dwight Gooden in 1985, and the first in the Al since Vida Blue in 1971.  CC clearly deserved the award over Josh Beckett, as Rob Neyer points out:

Environment: As you probably know, Fenway Park is not a friendly place for power hitters. Over the past three seasons, Fenway has allowed the fewest home runs in the American League. However, it’s a great place for hitters, generally; over the past three seasons, it’s been the best for scoring. Meanwhile, Jacobs Field has been pitcher-friendly over the past three seasons, but in 2007 it ranked behind only Fenway in its positive impact on scoring. It’s not easy to weigh park effects, but it looks like neither Beckett nor Sabathia was helped much by their home fields, with Beckett suffering the effects slightly more.

Competition: Last season, 19 American League pitchers finished with at least 200 innings. Beckett was 10th, right in the middle, facing a composite .757 OPS over the course of the season. Meanwhile, Sabathia had the easiest time in the group, as he faced a composite .738 OPS (holding the 18th spot was Sabathia’s teammate, Fausto Carmona, at .747).

Durability: This is obviously Sabathia’s ace in the hole. He topped the American League with 241 innings. Beckett was 19th in the league with 201 innings.

Congrats to CC, who deserved it.  Two things now, mmmkay? Sign a long-term deal.  And don’t lay an egg in the postseason in 2008.

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ALCS Game 1 Preview

Posted by Fred on October 12, 2007

inc_cle_bos.pngThe waiting is finally over, and the ALCS gets underway tonight at 7:07 from Fenway. The series matches up the two best records in baseball this year, as both the Tribe and the Red Sox ended up with 96 wins (home-field advantage going to Beantown because the Sox took 5 of 7 in the regular season). Most pundits give a slight edge to the Red Sox, based on home-field advantage and Papelbon over Borowski in close games. Expect it to go 6 or 7 regardless of the victor.

Game one features the two main Cy Young Award candidates in the AL. C.C. Sabathia (19-7, 3.21) faces off against Josh Beckett (20-7, 3.27). Beckett was clearly superior in the ALDS, tossing a complete game shutout against the injury-depleted Angels. Sabathia threw 114 pitches in five innings while walking six. C.C. admits he was hyped up and overthrowing, hitting 96-97 on the gun (his control deteriorates above about 94). Bruce Froemming’s postage stamp strike zone didn’t help. Given that C.C. posted the best K-to-BB ratio by a left-hander ever, expect fewer walks even against the notoriously patient Red Sox lineup.

Over their last 10 starts, give a minuscule edge to Sabathia:

		W-L	IP  H	R   ER	BB  K	HR   ERA    GmSc
Sabathia	6-1  	72  59  21  21  17  60  5    2.63   62
Beckett		7-2	71  66  23  22  11  70  8    2.79   61

Each has had a hard-luck start this year in the season series.  On July 24th, Sabathia lost a 1-0 decision to Game 3 starter Dice-K when he gave up a 4th inning two-out RBI single to Mike Lowell (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K).  The following night, Beckett lost a 1-0 decision to Game 2 starter Fausto Carmona when he gave up a third inning solo homer to Franklin Gutierrez (8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K).  For their careers, Sabathia is 2-4 with a 3.91 ERA  against Boston (skewed by a 9 ER, 4.2 IP start in 2005), while Beckett is 1-3 with a 6.57 ERA (skewed by 15 ER in two 2006 starts).

Players to watch tonight:

  • The good — Manny Ramirez (12-21 with 4 HR and 7 RBI vs. Sabathia), David Ortiz (5-18 with a HR), Bobby Kielty (9-29, 2 HR, 7 RBI) for the Red Sox.  Jhonny Peralta (3-7, 2 BB), Jason Michaels (4-10, 1 HR), Travis Hafner (4-9, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR) for the Tribe.
  • The bad — Jason Veritek (1-10, 3 Ks), Doug Mirabelli (1-10, 5 Ks), Mike Lowell (3 Ks in 7 ABs) and J.D. Drew (3 Ks in 3 ABs) for the Sox.  Grady Sizemore (6 Ks in 12 AB), Victor Martinez (2-11 with 4 Ks), Kenny Lofton (3-16, 2 Ks), Ryan Garko (0-5).

Prediction? Someone will win 2-1, but I have no idea who will have the 2.

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Game 1 recap: what year is it again?

Posted by Fred on October 5, 2007


On a night that ace C.C. Sabathia was stymied by old fogy umpire Bruce Froemming’s paper-thin strike zone, it was 1995 all over again as Kenny Lofton helped the Indians spank the Yankees to take a 1-0 series lead.  Lofton, Victor Martinez and Ryan Garko went a combined 9-17, with 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 R and 9 RBI.  Kenny even had his 33rd postseason stolen base.  Asdrubal Cabrera added a HR and scored twice.  In the 44 games since Cabrera was inserted as the regular second baseman and #2 hitter, the Indians are 32-12. In the 36 games since Lofton was put in the 7 hole on a fairly regular basis, he is hitting .296 and the team is 27-9.


Sabathia ended up walking six in five innings (including an intentional pass to A-Rod to get out of a dicey 5th with a one-run lead intact), but was able to limit the damage to three runs.  He clearly didn’t bring his A game – those six walks match his total for all of September – but Froemming’s strike zone clearly didn’t help matters any.  More importantly, he put the team in a position to win, and Jensen Lewis, Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez finished with four strong innings, giving up only a meaningless ninth inning single and striking out six while walking none.

On the other hand, Chien-Ming Wang looked like a shell of an 18 game winner, A-Rod went 0-2 with two walks, and Joe Torre’s bizarre decision(s) to start Doug Mientkiewicz (0-1 before being lifted in the 5th) and Hideki Matsui (0-4, 2 Ks, 5 LOB) backfired as the Yankees lost their fourth postseason game in a row.

One game does not a series make, and the Tribe remains in a tenuous position.  Andy Pettitte starts tonight for the Yankees, who has a reputation as a stopper (70-39 career in games following a Yankees loss).  The Yankees are also a veteran team unlikely to be fazed by being blown out – in games following losses of five runs or more in 2007, the Yankees went 10-5.  Fausto Carmona takes his 19-8 record to the hill for the Tribe.  It will be important for Carmona to eat some innings, as Wedge used his three best relievers for four innings last night.  Perez pitched two innings, which would suggest he may be unavailable.  Twice this year he has pitched following a 2+ IP appearance.  On August 8 he pitched 2 1/3 innings against the White Sox, and pitched an inning the next night (0 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 0 BB).  Then on August 26 he pitched 2 innings against the Royals, appearing the next night against the Twins for a three-pitch inning (the 5-4-3 triple play).  Overall, Perez has been pretty good pitching on no rest (7 appearances, 7 1/3 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 5 K, 0 BB).

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Game 1: Tribe vs. Yanks

Posted by Fred on October 4, 2007


In a couple of hours, it’ll be Game On (cue the Imperial Death March music). With the other three series starting yesterday, commentary on the Tribe-Yankees series has been a battle of dueling conventional wisdom. Conventional Wisdom A says that in a short series, pitching reigns supreme – no matter how well the Angels play the rest of the way, Beckett’s performance yesterday places them in a huge hole. Advantage here would appear to go to Cleveland, with two legitimate Cy Young contenders facing one semi-legitimate Cy Young contender and a bunch of old guys. Conventional Wisdom B says go with experience, of which the Yankees have a closetful and the Indians have Trot Nixon.

The early trend seemed to be for pundits to go with Cleveland’s pitching over the Yankees offense, with the majority of the ESPN prognosticators picking Chief Wahoo over Pinstripe Man. Late returns suggest it’s going the other way, as the burden of that 0-6 record against the Yankees looms larger. Looks like a 5 game series that could go either way, with the first game even more important than usual. If the Indians win tonight, the Yankees know they have to face Sabathia again and Carmona twice, and the Tribe knows the 0-6 record means nothing. If the Yankees win, do the kids from Ohio see a first-round loss as inevitable?

Tonight’s game features Sabathia and Wang:

		Starts    W-L    IP  	K      BB    WHIP    ERA
CC Sabathia     34        19-7   241    209    37    1.141   3.21
Chien-Ming Wang 30        19-7	 199    104    59    1.294   3.70

Over the last ten starts, Sabathia is 5-1 with a 2.43 ERA (74 IP, 61 K, 14 BB). Wang is 6-2 with a 4.16 ERA (62 IP, 40 K, 25 BB). Over the last five, the edge goes to Sabathia as well, 4-0, 2.37 vs. 3-1, 2.37.

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