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Entries in New York Yankees (118)


CC Sabathia's HR Woes

Yankees starter CC Sabathia has coughed up a career-high 24 home runs during the 2013 season. That's tied with R.A. Dickey and Joe Blanton for second-most among all starting pitchers. While the 33-year-old has bested fellow $20 million-plus-a-year veterans Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira by at least staying on the field, Sabathia also has the eighth-worst adjusted ERA (85 ERA+) among qualified American League starters.

The 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner and six-time All-Star has usually been one of the game's best at preventing big flys, allowing just 0.8 home runs nine innings from his rookie year in 2001 through 2012. Why has Sabathia (1.4 HR/9 in 2013) seemingly morphed into a left-handed Phil Hughes? Here's a closer look at how hitters are taking CC deep.

  • Sabathia's no-longer-fast fastball is the main culprit, as hitters have homered 15 times against the pitch in 2013. Only A.J. Griffin (20) has given up more home runs with the fastball. As Sabathia's velocity diminishes, hitters are increasingly ripping his fastball down the lines and into the seats. He has lost about three ticks since 2011, and opponents are now pulling well over 40 percent of his fastballs:

Sabathia's slowing fastball

Ten of the 15 fastball home runs Sabathia has given up this year have been pulled. Back in 2011, CC trailed just David Price and Derek Holland in average fastball velocity among lefty starters. This year, he places a middling 21st out of 44 lefty starters who have thrown at least 500 fastballs.

  • Sabathia is leaving more pitches over the middle of the strike zone this season (27%) than in 2012 (24%), and he's paying for it. Eleven of the 24 homers he has allowed have caught the fat part of the plate, already surpassing his 2012 total (eight).
  • He's also generating fewer ground balls in 2013 (46% of balls put in play) than in 2012 (49%). Opponents aren't just putting the ball in the air more frequently against Sabathia, though -- they're driving those fly balls farther. Fly balls hit off CC are traveling an average of 272 feet this year, up from 259 feet last season and the 266 foot average for starting pitchers.
  • Sabathia is getting scorched more often when the hitter's back is against the wall, allowing more two-strike home runs in 2013 (eight) than in 2011 and 2012 combined (six). CC's newfound aggression with two strikes may be part of the problem -- he's throwing pitches over the plate 48% of the time in two-strike counts this year, compared to 38% in 2012. Six of the eight homers he has given up in two-strike counts have come on in-zone pitches.

Soriano Slugging, Hacking Way to History

(All stats through Friday's games)

The injury-ravaged New York Yankees have hit the fewest right-handed home runs (24) in the majors this season, and they rank just 25th in on-base percentage (.306). Well, the Bombers at least addressed one of those issues by throwing lots of cash ($17.7 million of the $24.5 million he's owed through 2014) at the Cubs to acquire Alfonso Soriano. The 37-year-old is still slugging, but he's drawing walks at his lowest clip in over a decade and is well on his way to making power-hitting, out-making history.

Soriano, who began his career in pinstripes from 1999-2003, has clubbed 17 home runs this season. That's now second best in the clubhouse, behind Robinson Cano's 21. But Soriano has also drawn just 15 free passes. While he has always been a free swinger, Soriano's walk rate (3.9% of his plate appearances) is his lowest since 2002 and his .284 on-base percentage is a career low.

If Soriano keeps going deep (he's on pace for 27 homers) and drawing walks at this pace, he'll join an infamous list of high-slugging, low-OBP hitters that includes the likes of Dave Kingman, Joe Pepitone and teammate Vernon Wells. Should Soriano hit 25 homers while remaining such a prodigious out-maker, he'll post one of the 20 lowest on-base percentages ever among hitters reaching that big fly milestone.

Lowest OBP during 25+ home run season


Soriano's has an ultra-low OBP for two main reasons. He's even more of a hacker this season, with his chase rate climbing from 36% in 2012 to 41% in 2013 -- only San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval has been jumpier against pitches thrown out of the strike zone. Soriano also doesn't seem to instill as much fear in pitchers these days. He is seeing more pitches thrown over the plate (46%) than he ever has during the Pitch F/X era (2008-2013).

With power but also a paltry OBP, Soriano has essentially been a league-average hitter this season (99 OPS+). That might beat playing Wells every day, but Soriano's Kingman-esque production is a far cry from his early glory days in the Bronx.


CC Sabathia - Three Starts in July 2011, 2012, and 2013

It's time to face the reality that Roy Halliday is not Roy Halliday anymore and CC Sabathia is not CC Sabathia anymore (and we have to begin to wonder if Justin Verlander is Justin Verlander anymore).

There comes a point, even in great pitcher's careers, when they are not the same pitcher they once were.

They don't have the same stuff, the same speed, the same power, the same accuracy, even the same aura they once did. It can happen gradually, or it can take some time. Sometimes the diminution of dominance is so gradual that we don't see it happening in real time, we can only see it in retrospect.

To the Way Back Machine

CC Sabathia: July 16 to July 26, 2011 - three starts

  1. Sabathia went 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA and a 0.826 WHIP
  2. In 23 IP he allowed four runs on nine hits (including one homer) and 10 walks
  3. Batters hit .120/.224/.200
  4. He struck out 30.
  5. He threw 132 fastballs averaging 94.3 mph
  6. He threw 76 pitches 95+ mph. 

CC Sabathia: July 17 to July 28, 2012 - three starts

  1. Coming off the DL, Sabathia went 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA and a 1.158 WHIP
  2. In 19 IP he allowed nine runs on 18 hits (including three homers) and four walks
  3. Batters hit .240/.278/.427
  4. He struck out 18.
  5. He threw 109 fastballs averaging 92.7 mph
  6. He threw one pitch 95+ mph. He threw 131 pitches 92+ mph.

CC Today

CC Sabathia: July 14 to July 26, 2013 - three starts

  1. In his last three starts, Sabathia has gone 0-2 with a 10.93 ERA and a 2.357 WHIP
  2. In 14 IP he has allowed 22 runs (17 earned)  on 26 hits (including three homers) and seven walks
  3. Batters have hit .388/.461/.627
  4. He has struck out 16.
  5. He has thrown 91 fastballs averaging 92.2 mph
  6. He threw one pitch 94.9 mph. He has thrown 80 pitches 92+ mph. He has thrown 90 pitches 88 to 92 mph. On pitches over 88 mph, batters are hitting .552.

It's just three snapshots

Since July 14, the league has a 3.16 ERA amongst qualified starters. And, only Josh Johnson's 12.51 ERA is worse than Sabathia's and Joe Saunders' .400 BAA is the only one worse than Sabathia. 

How much or how little this tells you depends on how willing you are to accept what your eyes and mind sees and knows.

There are some fans and experts who prefer to see what their memory and their heart tells them. 

Now, this is not to say that CC will never pitch another good game. And this is not to say that CC cannot make the adjustment to being more of a finesse pitcher and less of a power pitcher.

It may be just three snapshots over three Julys, but these are three pictures of CC Sabathia and clearly none are the picture of Dorian Gray.

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