Late in 2011, the Yankees made the decision to extend then-ace CC Sabathia for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, thinking they had a future Hall of Famer, 300 game winner, and inhabitant of Monument Park. However, things haven't exactly gone according to plan. A Bay Area native, CC has been anything but hyphy on the mound this season. Over 100.1 innings, Sabathia has a 5.47 ERA with 19 home runs allowed. Unless the Yankees are willing to banish their $24 million man to the ‘pen, some changes will need to be made.
The days of CC the fireballing workhorse are gone. He depends more on 90 mph sinkers than 98 mph four seam fastballs and is no longer a guy who can go deep into games. As Harlan pointed out, CC's splits get worse and worse as the game goes on. Sabathia's effectiveness takes a nosedive after about 75 pitches, so a big part of salvaging his remaining value will be limiting his workload.
Not too many people know that Sabathia is still superb against left-handed hitters. Lefties have a meager .198 wOBA against CC, probably because of his sweeping slider and his height. Because CC's wingspan is so long, it almost looks like he is throwing across his body, making lefties appear feeble in the batter's box.
Then there are the righties. They destroy his fastball, sinker, and slider, only experiencing any difficulty against his changeup. Sabathia supposedly enlisted the help of former teammate Andy Pettitte, who enjoyed a much smoother transition into life with lower velocity. Pettitte was supposed to teach CC his cutter, the pitch he threw to righties almost 30% of the time in 2013, according to Brooks Baseball. The same site has Sabathia throwing a grand total of 15 cutters this year. If CC has any hope of establishing the inside corner against righties, he will have to start implementing the cutter into his arsenal.
This holds true especially considering what he does to compensate. Here is how he has thrown his sinker to righties this year, courtesy of Baseball Savant:
Compare that to AL All-Star starter Dallas Keuchel, who also stays in the high 80's and low 90's:
Keuchel isn't reinventing the wheel. Sinkerballers have always tried to stay down and away against opposite-handed hitters. When Keuchel wants to go inside on righties he turns to, you guessed it, his cutter. If CC can start integrating his potentially existent cutter into his arsenal, he can also bring his sinker down and away. Mixing his pitches up would also add some deception to his changeup, giving him a fighting chance against right-handed hitters.
As ugly as CC's outings have been, it is important to realize that he isn't totally done yet. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has improved as his velocity declined. If the opposite happened, it would be a lot more worrisome. Joe Girardi will have to continue to have an early hook for CC so that he doesn't get knocked around as he tires throughout the game. But believe it or not, CC has built a foundation for his future as a finesse pitcher. He might just be a good cutter away from finally tying it all together.