Last week, Jon Morosi reported that Yankees rotation stalwart CC Sabathia wants to pitch in 2019. “I’m [going] start to start,” Sabathia told Morosi. “I go out one start and feel like I can pitch five more years. I go out another start and I’m [feeling] done. But if I can stay healthy -- if my knee holds up -- hopefully I’ll play one more.”
At this point, Sabathia’s taking his career year-by-year. That makes sense, as there were several question marks heading into his 2018 campaign. Many wondered if he could remain healthy and effective. For the most part, he’s done both and helped stabilize the Yankees’ pitching staff. In fact, there’s reason to believe he can carry this success over into next year.
Sabathia, 38, owns a 3.51 ERA over 100 innings in 2018. His peripherals aren’t much to look at — namely a 4.54 FIP and 1.26 HR/9 — but he’s routinely outperformed those stats. It’s no fluke, either. The left-hander essentially reinvented himself beginning in 2016. He scrapped his four-seam fastball and started barraging batters with a heavy diet of cutters.
While Sabathia always relied on a slider as his breaking pitch of choice, he’s used it at a higher rate over the last two seasons. This fits in with the Yankees’ strategy of having pitchers increase their breaking ball usage. The organization developed an anti-fastball philosophy and Sabathia has thrived off it.
Sabathia’s velocity has also held constant since 2016, which presents another encouraging sign. His fastball suffered an enormous drop in 2013 and 2014, and with that came ineffectiveness. That leveled off, however, and CC has been working with the same zip on his cutter for nearly three seasons.
The best news, though, comes in the form of his batted ball profile. Since 2016, the left-hander has generated a 24.3% soft contact rate. He’s also limited hard contact to just 26.8%. This isn’t the same Sabathia who tried to strike batters out by throwing high-octane fastballs by them. He’s evolved into a crafty veteran who forces opposing players to hit themselves into outs. That strategy leads one to believe he can continue this run of success for years to come, so long as his health holds up.
The Yankees have a long way to go before they need to make offseason decisions. A lot could change between now and then. That said, Sabathia has become a staple on this Yankees squad. He provides leadership, positive clubhouse presence, and he’s still a strong pitcher. What contender wouldn’t want that type of player on their team? The very fact that we’re talking about Sabathia’s future with the Yankees is a testament to his outstanding 2018.