Don't Sweat C.C. Sabathia's Slow Start for New York Yankees

By Christopher Gamble

New York Yankees starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia now has two starts under his belt and has not looked like the ace he is.  Yet.  So far, Sabathia has thrown 212 pitches across 12 innings and his velocity has been down on his fastball to an average speed of around 91 MPH.  Last season, his fastball also started off a bit low but he averaged 94 MPH for the season.  So far, he has allowed two home runs this season, both on Opening Day to the Tampa Bay Rays, and has allowed 8 hits in each start.  Not exactly an ace-like start.

Is there anything to this slow start?  Not really.  Sabathia has struggled with his command this year, even in Spring Training so his lack of velocity could be him trying to locate his pitches.  His off-speed stuff isn’t far off from last season, velocity wise.  He is also continuing to pile up the strikeouts, seven against the Rays and eight against the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday.  So even though the velocity isn’t there hitters are still having a tough time handling his slider and changeup.

It is also important to note that Sabathia has lost a lot of weight heading into the past two seasons and both times has struggled out of the gate.  In fact, despite being the Opening Day pitcher for the Yankees each season since he arrived in the Bronx in 2009 he is 0-1 with a 7.64 ERA over four seasons.  That is not great.  Yet, Sabathia has managed to win at least 19 games every year as a Yankee.  Some pitchers take a little time to get going in the regular season just like some hitters do.

It isn’t like Sabathia is pitching 85 MPH and not locating his fastball.  He is averaging 91 MPH through two starts.  Anyone who has watched the games he has started this year will have seen him having difficulty locating his fastball.  And, let’s face it.  He has made two terrible pitches this year, both on Opening Day when Rays first baseman Carlos Pena took him deep for a grand slam in the first inning and when Rays third baseman Evan Longoria homered in the third inning.

Weight could also be an issue.  Sabathia has been a pitcher that has consistently been around 300 pounds for his career.  This season he came into camp weighing between 270 and 280.  The lost weight could have an adverse effect on his delivery and mechanics.  He might have had the same problem last season which is why he put the weight back on after losing thirty pounds in the 2011 offseason.  The only person who knows is Sabathia himself.  If his mechanics have become flawed because of the weight loss he will figure it out.

I wouldn’t put too much stock in the lost velocity.  He is still striking batters out at an 11.25 K/9 clip which is well above his career average of 7.70 K/9.  His biggest problem has been location and that will not be a problem moving forward.  Sabathia is still the ace he always has been for the Yankees.

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