Andrew Perna. 11th July, 2011 - 3:54 pm
CC Sabathia was not initially named to the American League All-Star team and manager Ron Washington did not add him to the squad until a handful of other arms backed out due to injury.
As it turns out, Sabathia will be unable to pitch in the Midsummer Classic on Tuesday night because he started for the Yankees on Sunday against Tampa Bay (league rules). Still, his late addition to the team was an eye-popping one.
Sabathia enters the All-Star break with more wins than any pitcher in baseball (13), a sparkling 2.72 ERA and the fourth-most strikeouts in the American League. Only Justin Verlander of the Tigers has thrown more innings in the first half of the season.
The left-hander may have been an All-Star afterthought, but he will not suffer the same fate later this season when writers begin filling out their Cy Young ballots.
He ranks near the top of most pitching categories -- and not just in the AL.
Stat: AL Rank, MLB Rank
Starts (20): t-1st, t-1st
Innings Pitched (145 2/3): 2nd, 2nd
Strikeouts (126): 4th, 8th
Wins (13): 1st, 1st
ERA (2.72): 8th, 14th
WHIP (1.15): 15th, 29th
K/BB (3.60): 7th, 12th
K/9 (7.78): 11th, 29th
W% (.765): 1st, 4th
It certainly helps that the Yankees score runs when Sabathia is on the mound, keeping him in the win column even when he is not having a tremendous outing, but he has not backed into many wins.
He has lasted fewer than six innings just once, on April 10 in a 4-0 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. His early dismissal in that game was a fixture of pitch count (118) as the Boston hitters worked him deep into counts. He allowed nine hits, but just a single run.
Sabathia has not lost back-to-back decisions all season and the Yankees have not lost consecutive games in which he has started since that loss in Boston. It came after the big lefty tossed seven shutout innings in an eventual 5-4 loss to the Twins at Yankee Stadium on April 5th.
It is hard to compete with what Verlander has accomplished with the Tigers -- 12-4 with a 2.15 ERA, 147 strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.87 along with a no-hitter -- but Sabathia is doing his best.
He finished off the unofficial first half of the season with a complete game shutout against the Rays on Sunday, allowing four hits and striking out nine on 113 pitches. The California native has not allowed a run since the eighth inning of an 8-3 win over Colorado on June 25.
That is 23 2/3 consecutive innings of scoreless baseball, including 33 strikeouts and just five walks. In that win against the Rockies, Sabathia struck out nine and walked a single batter. His strikeout-to-walk ratio in his last four starts is 7-to-1.
Critics will point to the fact that Sabathia has allowed more than three earned runs in seven of his 20 starts, but he also lasted at least seven innings in four of those appearances and the Yankees only lost three of them. He has thrown fewer than 100 pitches just once -- on June 19 against the Cubs when he needed just 89 tosses to get threw seven innings in a 10-4 victory.
If he has been this good in 2011, how can Sabathia be overlooked?
Already a four-time All-Star and former Cy Young winner, he just may be having the best season of his career.
Assuming he makes 14 more starts (he has started 34 games for the Yankees in each of the last two seasons) and maintains his current winning percentage, he will finish the season with a record of 23-8. That projection does not take into account that he has always been stronger in the second half of the season, especially when his team is chasing a playoff berth or division title.
If he notches 23 wins it would eclipse his career high (21, set last year).
His lowest ERA (2.70) came in 2008 when he spent the second half with the Brewers following a trade from the Indians. He is just fractions of a point off that total now and is in the midst of a run of four starts and a total of one unearned run. His ERA is dropping with every out recorded.
Perhaps the most impressive of his numbers are the five home runs he has allowed. He makes half his starts in one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the game, but has found a way to keep the ball on the ground and out of the stands.
He averaged 19 homers allowed in his first two seasons in New York, but is on pace for single digits this year. After inducing more fly ball outs than ground ball ones in both 2009 and 2010, he has 27 more of the ground ball variety this season.
This has all come as a result of his maturity and continued transformation from a young thrower to a seasoned pitcher. It bodes well for not only the remainder of his season, but also his production as he approaches his mid-30s. He will turn 31 next week.
The only thing Sabathia does not have going for him in 2011 is the dominance many pitchers have enjoyed. The Year of the Pitcher has turned into what could be The Decade of the Pitcher, which has led many to overlook his excellence.
If Sabathia is able to remain on the run he has been on as of late, those around the game will receive a fastball up-and-in when it comes time to name the American League Cy Young recipient.