The painful death of CC Sabathia's changeup

Chris Stewart hands CC some of his awfulness. - Jared Wickerham

A supremely effective pitch for the Yankees ace in 2012 has been batting practice in 2013.

Traditionally, the calling card for CC Sabathia has been his devastating slider. Combined with a plus fastball, the pitch was murder on lefties and a dominant out pitch. But Sabathia's second most effective pitch over his MLB career has been his changeup, reaching its peak effectiveness last year as opponents were limited to a 35 wRC+ when facing it.

CC Sabathia's advanced statistics by pitch: Career

Pitch

Pitches

BB%

K%

BB/K

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

BABIP

wRC

wRAA

wOBA

wRC+

FA

10347

8.3 %

12.5 %

0.66

.277

.343

.429

.772

.152

.296

343.9

37.8

.340

113

SL

4733

1.9 %

48.8 %

0.04

.155

.177

.236

.413

.081

.287

5.6

-152.3

.182

14

CH

3470

5.5 %

17.8 %

0.31

.242

.282

.354

.636

.112

.277

87.8

-35.3

.281

75

SI

2261

6.7 %

7.7 %

0.88

.330

.379

.500

.879

.170

.335

102.9

32.3

.382

144

CU

456

0.0 %

33.8 %

0.00

.275

.286

.406

.692

.130

.395

7.1

-1.3

.303

92

But it has been an entirely different story in 2013.

Pitch

Pitches

BB%

K%

BB/K

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

BABIP

wRC

wRAA

wOBA

wRC+

FA

1148

8.2 %

13.8 %

0.60

.292

.349

.485

.834

.193

.300

45.1

11.5

.362

131

SL

628

2.6 %

42.4 %

0.06

.168

.194

.304

.498

.136

.255

6.6

-14.5

.218

40

CH

455

7.0 %

14.0 %

0.50

.295

.345

.492

.837

.197

.324

21.4

5.6

.364

133

SI

414

6.3 %

8.1 %

0.78

.330

.385

.500

.885

.170

.341

18.7

6.4

.387

152

CU

148

0.0 %

0.0 %

0.00

.364

.364

.727

1.091

.364

.300

2.5

1.3

.467

210

CC has allowed 16 extra-base hits in 2013 off of his changeup, versus just three in all of 2012. Because of this CC has been reduced to only having one effective pitch, which is okay for a reliever, but a real problem for a once front-line starter.

But the problem with CC's changeup does not appear to be velocity-related as one might assume. The difference in speed between his fastball and changeup is actually exactly the same as it was last year (6.4 MPH). But he's getting fewer swinging strikes with the pitch and hitters are making much better contact. The pinpoint control necessary to throw an effective changeup just isn't there. And if you don't spot it properly, a changeup is basically just glorified batting practice.

Hopefully CC can work out whatever problems he's having with his changeup in the offseason. The dip in velocity is problem enough without being able to throw your pitches accurately. Otherwise, CC is likely to have another season where he's one of the league leaders in XBH allowed. And considering the size and length of his contract, he would become quite the albatross for the Yankees. And that is not a fat joke.

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