When CC Sabathia picked up career victory number 200 against the Minnesota Twins last night, he threw a season-high 121 pitches in the process. In fact, 121 pitches is the most he's thrown in a start since he threw 127 pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 21, 2011. I bring this up because during the off-season, Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild had discussions about reducing CC's workload heading into the 2013 season.
Rothschild talked about reducing Sabathia's overall innings total and pitch count during games, while adding that they'll try to give Sabathia extra rest if they have a chance to do so saying,
Not only lightening the load but the pitch total during the game, because he’s a guy that almost thrives on working the pitch totals, and when he doesn’t have them, it has an effect leading into the next start.
We do have to watch it, and we’re going to probably have to watch a few guys on this staff. We’re aware of it and back off. When he had a chance to pitch with extra rest we did that. In the past he would pitch on the fifth day almost all the time.
Through 18 starts in 2012, Sabathia had thrown 126 innings on 1963 pitches (109 pitches/start), whereas in 18 starts in 2013 he has thrown 124 innings on 1881 pitches* (104.5 pitches/start). Those 124 innings and 1881 total pitches rank fifth and third-most, respectively, in all of Major League Baseball. If they really wanted to cut back on his inning and pitch totals, they haven't done a very good job of it thus far.
The pitching coach, of course, also noted that if the team has an off-day, they'll try to take advantage of it to give their left-hander an extra breather. The Yankees have had eight days off this season, five of which didn't fall on CC's fifth day to start and they have taken advantage of those days each time (April 7 vs. Detroit, May 9 at Colorado, May 26 at Tampa Bay, June 22 vs. Tampa Bay, June 28 at Baltimore). The team could have also tried to give him a built-in extra day; they originally wanted Ivan Nova to start one of the games against Minnesota, but we'll never know since he had to relieve David Phelps last Saturday.
With all of this said, does it help or hurt Sabathia if he gets an extra day of rest? This season he has a 3.06 ERA with four days of rest and a 5.19 ERA with five days of rest. However, in his career, the lefty has a 3.52 ERA with four days of rest while posting a 3.51 ERA with five days of rest. In this case, if you trust CC's career numbers over his 2013 numbers, and you should, it doesn't matter if he gets an extra day or not. In fact, you might as well give him an extra day if you can, for obvious reasons.
CC Sabathia's workload is a topic I feel doesn't get talked about enough. We have to remember that he's closer to the end of his career than the beginning, so keeping track of his innings and pitches thrown, while giving him an extra day here and there, is important, considering the Yankees are on the hook for up to four more years and $96MM after this year.
*Remember: Sabathia had a start cut short due to a rain delay against the Colorado Rockies on May 9, so that throws a bit of a monkey wrench into the data.