CC Sabathia made his second Grapefruit League start on Tuesday, this coming against the Washington Nationals in Viera, Florida, and the results were not pretty: 3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K. His poor performance caught plenty of attention, but it was once again his fastball velocity that garnered headlines as well. He was reportedly sitting at 86-87 mph with the heater, while failing to crack 90 mph even once. Joe Girardi said he had CC's fastball in the 88-89 mph range, though he didn't seem to be too worried about his left-hander's velocity; should we?
Although it has been a hot topic dating back to last year, Sabathia has said that he isn't worried about his decline in velocity. Girardi pretty much echoed that sentiment after yesterday's game, saying he only looked at the radar gun "once or twice," while noting that CC's command "was a little off" and that it "got (Sabathia) in trouble," rather than the radar gun readings. The lack of velocity on Sabathia's fastball at the moment may be a bit of a bigger deal than what the Yankees are making it, yes, but there's more to pitching than just fastball velocity. It appears that we should be more worried about CC's command than his velocity, at least for now.
For reference on Sabathia's past spring training velocity readings, I went back to his second spring start from last year. If you remember, he only made two spring starts in 2013 because he was recovering from off-season elbow surgery; he threw a lot on the back fields at the minor league complex before starting any real games. Anyway, that start came against the Houston Astros on March 26, in which he allowed four runs in five innings of work. I had to count the fastball numbers on my own, since spring fastball numbers aren't provided online. I counted 50 total fastballs, six of which weren't tracked due to YES Network-related reasons. Of the 44 fastballs that were tracked by YES, a majority came in at an average of 89.5 mph. There were a couple of 92's, a few 86's, and even an 84, but otherwise he was sitting around 89-90 mph.
Obviously, Sabathia's velocity from Tuesday's start was lower than the 89.5 mph fastball from his second Grapefruit League start last year, but we have to remember that there are still two weeks left in camp. Assuming he starts every fifth day, he will make three more spring starts before starting Opening Day in Houston, so, theoretically, his fastball velocity could increase a tick or two. For now, we should be more concerned about his command (he was all over the place yesterday), but if this lack of velocity thing continues later in the spring, and even into the season, we may have to worry at least just a bit.