Sunday, August 2, 2009

Are C.C. Sabathia's numbers a surprise?

On a very good Yankees team with a great offense, Carsten Charles (C.C.) Sabathia is 11-7 with a 3.95 ERA. He has pitched more than 8 innings only once (a complete game shutout at Baltimore on May 8th). He had a 4.62 ERA in July and allowed 5 runs and 10 hits over 7 innings in a loss to the White Sox today.

He has the most expensive contract of any pitcher in Major League history: 7 years, $161 million


Here is what got him the contract:
2006: 12-11, 3.21, 172 SO, 44 BB
2007: 19-7, 3.21, 209 SO, 37 BB(Indians) - Cy Young Award
2008: 11-2, 1.65, 128 SO, 25 BB (Brewers) - 5th in NL Cy Young Voting
.614 W-L % (10th among active pitchers)
240+ IP (2007, 2008)
28 Complete Games (11th Active)
11 Shutouts (7th Active)

This didn't:
2004: 11-10, 4.12
2005: 15-10, 4.03
2008: 6-8, 3.83 (Indians)
Postseason: 2-3, 7.92 ERA

He has impressive career numbers: 117-73 with a 3.65 ERA entering this season

Here is a breakdown of 2 pitchers. One is Sabathia, the other is a well-known pitcher.

Pitcher A
Hits/9: 7.49 (35th all time)
SO/9: 9.12 (8th)
SO/BB: 3.65 (11th)
WHIP: 1.11 (11th)

Pitcher B
Hits/9: 8.33 (243rd all-time)
SO/9: 7.48 (51st)
SO/BB: 2.65 (57th)
WHIP: 1.24 (228th)

Pitcher A is one of the most dominant pitchers ever. Pitcher B is very good, but the numbers much more pedestrian.

Pitcher A: Johan Santana
Pitcher B: C.C. Sabathia

How much does this matter? Hard to tell, especially since these are career statistics. Santana, for instance, has fallen slightly since his 2004-2006 peak. Sabathia put up incredible numbers in 2007 and 2008 after the trade, but not as much as the rest of his career.

More Sabathia numbers:

SO/BB
2007: 5.65 (1st in league)
2008 (Brewers): 5.12
2009: 2.53 (37th)

SO/9
2007: 7.8
2008: 8.9
2009: 6.6

BB/9
2007: 1.4
2008: 2.1
2009: 2.6

Interestingly, he is allowing fewer hits and a lower batting average than in 2007 (.259 vs. .242)

These are not bad numbers, they're just not elite or worthy of a pitcher making $160 million over 7 years. The trends are not good either. All of these numbers are worse than they were in 2007. It's still early and he'll win a lot of games as a Yankee, but I would be worried about his strikeout and walk totals compared his his 2007 and 2008 seasons (the seasons that got him the contract in the first place).

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