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CC Sabathia's career might not actually be over

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Despite the writing on the wall, there are signs that CC Sabathia is back on the right track.

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CC Sabathia has probably dreaded reporting to camp over the past few years. An article detailing his off-season diet and the amount of weight he lost or gained as a result has become a rite of spring for Yankee beat reporters. The truth is that as his weight has fluctuated the results have been the same since 2013. At this point it's clear that his injuries and ineffectiveness have little to do with what the scale says when he steps on it.

More likely, Sabathia's woes have everything to do with the fact that he's been throwing a baseball in an unnatural motion at a very high speed for a very long time. From 2001 through 2012 he averaged 214 innings pitched and even the fittest of athletes are liable to breakdown after that kind of workload. For Sabathia, the breakdown came in the form of a lingering degenerative knee condition in his right leg (his plant leg). This condition has hurt him in obvious ways by keeping him out of action and in less obvious ways by throwing off his mechanics. The jump in walk rate he saw in 2013 can likely be linked directly to him favoring a knee that wasn't fully healthy, causing command issues all season.

Luckily the knee issue was addressed with minor surgery last July and Sabathia was given ample time to rehab leading up to the 2015 season. Despite his relatively clean bill of health most talking heads were convinced that he was done as an effective pitcher thanks to a few rough spring outings and a continued drop in velocity. That has continued into the regular season as they will point to his 0-2 start and an unsightly ERA. However, batters have not hit Sabathia hard at all and most of the damage done against him to this point has been via ground balls that happen to find their way through the infield. In fact, peripheral stats indicate that Sabathia's first two starts have been indistinguishable from the first two out of Michael Pineda. The same Pineda that some people are calling the Yankees' ace this year.

Pitcher IP H ER HR BB SO FIP
Michael Pineda 12.1 15 7 1 1 15 1.86
CC Sabathia 12.2 15 8 1 1 15 1.89

What's even more encouraging is that Sabathia appear's to be finally acknowledging his dip in velocity by changing his pitch selection. In his two starts this year he has significantly decreased his use of the fastball and is throwing more sliders and changeups instead. Proof that he may be regaining his command and is willing to use less force with more finesse. This shouldn't be surprising as his former teammate Andy Pettitte mastered this kind of transition when he continued to be a quality pitcher into his late 30's and early 40's. There are convincing signs that the brown bear is ready to come out of hibernation and be a major contributor again this year for the Yankees.