Heading into the 2017 season, two questions floated around regarding CC Sabathia. First, could he repeat his success from 2016? Second, and perhaps most important, would the left-hander remain healthy? Sabathia answered both of these with a resounding yes, serving as one of the Yankees’ most reliable starters. He continued his evolution as a pitcher and played a pivotal role in the Bombers’ postseason run.
It’s almost hard to believe how successful he was after the first month of the season. Sabathia had a disastrous April. The veteran southpaw owned a 4.34 ERA with a 5.36 FIP. He struggled to limit walks and keep the ball in the park. Save for a brilliant outing against the Cardinals on April 15th, it looked like he was cooked.
Something happened once the calendar flipped to May, though. Sabathia shook off the rust and became the team’s second-best starter. Across 49 innings, he pitched to a 3.49 ERA with a 3.50 FIP. The home run rate normalized and his walks came back down to earth. Plus, he became a master at inducing soft contact. In short, he turned the clocks back about five years, and it was pretty awesome. The May through July version of Sabathia came close to can’t miss stuff.
He also carried over some of that success in the second half, running up a 3.57 ERA over 70.2 innings. His peripherals dropped off notably, though. His 4.81 FIP and 1.53 HR/9 indicated that began to run out of steam. The big guy hung on, though, keeping the Yankees alive in the hunt for a postseason spot.
Sabathia wrapped up the year with a 3.69 ERA and a 4.49 FIP over 148.2 innings. That marked his best season since 2012. He’s a totally different type of pitcher now than he was back then, but he still contributed to the Yankees’ winning campaign. It’s tough not to love what he did out on the mound.
There were some low points, of course. Sabathia missed nearly two weeks in August with a balky knee. The pain proved so severe that it led him to contemplate retirement. Given his history with a degenerative knee condition, this episode got pretty scary. Nobody wanted to see him go out like that.
The Yankees have a decision to make regarding Sabathia next season. As a free agent, they could bring him back to shore up the back end of the rotation. The team knows him and he’s by all accounts a clubhouse leader. On the other hand, his knee could give out at any moment and he no longer pitches deep into games. He’s at best a five-and-fly starter now. Regardless of the team’s decision, I think everyone can agree that Sabathia was a pleasure to watch in 2017.