CC Sabathia and staring at the face of mediocrity

Andy Marlin

The supposed ace of the staff, CC Sabathia, has not pitched like an ace in 2013, and the Yankees will need him to go back to being his old self if they want to see October again.

This season has been a struggle for the Yankees. They currently stand fourth in the American League East, six back of the Red Sox for first in the division, and three back of the Rangers for the second wild card spot. At 51-44 (.537 win%), the Yankees have the seventh-best record in the AL and their -2 run-differential is eighth-best in the junior circuit as well. Both of these marks strongly suggest the Yankees are a mediocre team, but that was sort of to be expected at the start of the season. What wasn't expected, though, was that CC Sabathia would decline from ace to pitching like an average starter in the span of less than a year.

With the Yankees voluntarily downgrading on offense during the off-season, the team had to depend on its pitching more than ever to succeed. This all starts with the ace, CC Sabathia, to continue to anchor the rotation. Unfortunately, this has not happened so far. Through 20 starts, the soon-to-be-33-year-old has posted a 4.07 ERA and 4.05 FIP. The AL average ERA is 4.08 while the AL average FIP is 4.04. Sabathia's ERA+ (99) and FIP- (98) are just a tick below and above average, respectively.

A lot has been made of CC's declined velocity, though it has been on the rise as the season has progressed. However, if you can pinpoint one major problem for Sabathia in 2013 it has been the home runs; he has allowed 21 home runs through 137 innings pitched. Those 21 dingers surrendered ties him with Hisashi Iwakuma for third-most in the AL. If he stays healthy, he is on pace to shatter his career-high in homers allowed, set last season at 22. The declined velocity has been a little overstated, but perhaps it has played a role in Sabathia's home run woes.

His rate stats (ERA, FIP, etc.) tell us he's an average starter, which is what he looks like this season. But, to be fair, his 137 innings trail only Felix Hernandez's 138.2 IP in the AL. Although the results from Sabathia aren't what we're used to seeing, the quantity of innings we're getting from him is what we're accustomed to. Because of the high inning total, CC ranks 18th in the AL with a 1.8 fWAR, though Baseball-Reference credits the lefty with just an even 1.0 WAR.

Calling Sabathia "mediocre" or "average" or what have you may be a tad harsh, considering the amount of innings he's thrown. If he's not mediocre he's just a tick or two better. Either way, aside from the extreme amount of injuries the Yankees have suffered, CC has been the single biggest disappointment for New York so far. He's supposed to be the ace of the staff and he has simply not been that guy through the first three-and-a-half months of the season. Can he turn it around and have a big second half? Absolutely. In fact, the Yankees will probably need Sabathia to revert back to his old self if they want to reach the playoffs again for the 18th time in the last 19 seasons.

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