The Yankees brought back CC Sabathia on a one-year, $8 million deal last offseason, in what the southpaw said would be the final season of his Hall-of-Fame worthy career.
Unfortunately for Sabathia, a health scare delayed the start to his 2019 season, and a heartbreaking injury abruptly ended his final outing of the year. Sabathia’s final season carried its share of memories and even history, but overall, injuries dominated what should have been a celebratory narrative.
2019 Statistics: 107.1 innings, 4.95 ERA, 107 strikeouts, 1.407 WHIP, 8.97 K/9, 3.27 BB/9, 5.66 FIP, 0.3 WAR
2020 Contract Status: Retired
Before we dive into Sabathia’s final season, it should be stressed that as a person in the sport of baseball and in terms of his career as a whole, Sabathia gets an A++. Seeing an ‘F’ next to his name just seems wrong. In fact, I feel awful just writing it. But strictly on the field, when healthy, Sabathia struggled.
His 5.66 FIP was by far the highest mark of his career, ditto his 2.26 home runs per nine innings. Sure, the juiced ball of 2019 likely played a small factor, but likely not one that would have accounted for that kind of jump (last year’s mark was 1.12).
Sabathia’s season didn’t start until Apr. 13, as he recovered from a heart operation over the winter that was needed after an artery was discovered to be 90 percent blocked. Thankfully, the need for the operation was discovered before something even more serious happened. Between that and his annual knee cleanup, Sabathia got off to a late start, and he started well, pitching his first 10 innings without allowing an earned run.
But through the rest of his starts, all the way up until his final outing of the season (which came in relief), Sabathia struggled, pitching to a 5.51 ERA while allowing an opponent OPS of .893. Sabathia allowed 108 hits in that span, while consistently battled knee issues that cut into his time on the mound. It was devastating watching Sabathia labor through a season that should have been an opportunity for him to go out the way he deserved to, but he still battled back to audition for a bullpen role at the end of the season. After just one relief outing, he was on the postseason roster to pitch in a bullpen role.
Once again, injuries interfered with Sabathia’s postseason, eliminating any chance of pitching in the ALDS, but he returned briefly in the ALCS, getting high leverage outs in Game Two and coming in for Game Four, which ended with Sabathia literally trying to pitch with a dislocated shoulder. He went out in devastating fashion but in a warrior kind of way only he could have done.
Hopefully the next stop for Sabathia is Cooperstown. He deserves to go down as one of the most beloved starting pitchers in Yankee history, and one of the best overall human beings around the sport. Unfortunately, in terms of on-field performance, his 2019 season was disrupted by many factors, including an aging pitcher with not much left to offer. But Sabathia literally pitched until he couldn’t anymore, and for that, he gets an A in our hearts. So let’s end with his brightest moment of the season: