Two and a half weeks ago, the Yankees got their ace back. CC Sabathia returned from left elbow inflammation and delivered what’s supposed to be a typical Sabathia start: 7.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K. Maybe it’s too much to expect that every time out, but it’s certainly the kind of pitching like Sabathia’s capable of posting with some regularity.
In three starts since, Sabathia’s blown four leads, allowed five home runs and raised some eyebrows with a diminished fastball. He has a 4.43 ERA in those starts, which isn’t bad if this is his low point, but the Yankees have to believe Sabathia’s capable of more. Especially given this tight division race with three weeks to play.
“He’s been out a month out of the last two and a half months,” Joe Girardi said. “It could be just part of that coming back. It’s been inconsistent this year. At times you wonder if it’s the workload he’s had the last four or five years.”
Because of the two DL stints, this will be the first year since 2006 that Sabathia throws fewer than 230 innings in the regular season. In the past five years, he’s added an additional 80 innings in the playoffs. Despite this season’s elbow injury — and despite understandable speculation — Sabathia insists he’s healthy, and the Yankees say the same, but he seems worn down in one way or the other.
“(If he were hurt) I think it would manifest itself in less velocity than what he’s throwing,” Girardi said. “You wouldn’t see the 94s and 95s that you see. I ask every day. We put him through the tests that we put him through when his elbow was hurt. He doesn’t have that pain.”
Maybe it really is nothing more than perception and a small bump in the road. Certainly the Yankees have to hope that’s the case. According to FanGraphs, Sabathia’s average fastball velocity was 93.9 mph last season, and it’s down to 92.4 this season. His velocity was up early last week in Tampa, then it was down Saturday night in Baltimore. His velocity spikes have not been nearly as high this season as in the past.
“Just all location,” Sabathia said. “I’ve pitched with velo down before. It’s just a matter of me not making pitches. … I feel like I’m letting everybody down, not going out and making pitches I need to make and getting outs and pitching with a lead. We had a 2-0 lead (on Saturday) and I come right back and give it up. That’s not me. Hopefully I can correct this thing and go out and pitch well next time.”
Associated Press photo