CC Sabathia Returns To New York, But Should Fantasy Owners Care?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Yankees quest to upgrade their pitching staff has led them back to a familiar name, as earlier this week they resigned CC Sabathia to a one-year, $8 million contract.  At 38-years old (he’ll turn 39 during the 2019 season) it’s fair to wonder exactly what he has left in the tank, though the southpaw’s performance last season creates some intrigue:

153.0 IP
9 Wins
3.65 ERA
1.31 WHIP
140 Strikeouts (8.24 K/9)
51 Walks (3.00 BB/9)
44.4% Groundball Rate
.295 BABIP

Those are respectable numbers, though we can’t overlook the innings.  He’s now worked 153 innings or fewer in back-to-back seasons and hasn’t eclipsed 180 innings since 2013.  In other words you know he’s going to miss time, and it’s possible the Yankees view him as just a partial option and not someone that’s going to take the ball every five days over the entire season.

In terms of his performance on the mound, the once hard thrower does appear to have made the transition to become more of a pitcher.  It also doesn’t appear that he benefited from much luck, given the BABIP (which came courtesy of a 28.5% Hard%) and 75.5% strand rate.  At the same time is anyone truly buying in to this type of ERA?

While Sabathia’s control isn’t a question, his strikeout rate and home runs allowed are.  The strikeout rate was a big jump over his recent marks, though he also altered his approach.  After introducing his cutter as a significant pitch in 2016, the usage went to a new level in 2018:

  • 2016 – 31.60%
  • 2017 – 30.93%
  • 2018 – 42.28%

He posted a 12.18% Whiff% on the pitch, with opponents hitting .231 with a .376 SLG against the pitch.  That’s effective, and throwing it more certainly helps to back up the performance.

Sabathia has had some home run issues in the past, including a 1.27 HR/9 in ’17.  He was better last season, though there was an obvious split (1.26 HR/9 in the first half) and a regression there is going to hurt.  He also had an interesting home/road split:

  • Home – 3.12 ERA
  • Road – 4.23 ERA

An 80.2% strand rate at home, as well as a 1.12 HR/9, could easily regress.  Over the final three months of the season the performance against the cutter also regressed, with opponents hitting .250 against the pitch.  That’s not a huge regression, but now consider that it was .317 in September.  Those are all obvious red flags and could ultimately eliminate his usability.

While the numbers don’t look bad, no one is about to confuse Sabathia with a truly usable option.  Consider him more of a streaming option as opposed to a pitcher to trust.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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Make sure to check out all of our 2019 projections:

Date Posted
Dylan Bundy10/22/18
Foltynewicz, Mike10/09/18
Gibson, Kyle10/29/18
Hoskins, Rhys10/16/18
Hosmer, Eric11/05/18
Wheeler, Zack10/02/18

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