As C.C. Sabathia fought his way through 7.1 innings of effective but unspectacular baseball to record a win for the New York Yankees, it was once again apparent that he doesn’t have unhittable stuff anymore.
His fastball is now 92 instead of 95 mph, his slider isn’t as sharp as it used to be, and none of his pitches are quite as accurate as they were in the past. But these deficiencies do not mean that Sabathia is done as a starting pitcher in MLB; in fact, he is far from it.
After one gets over the fact that Sabathia is 33-years old with 2755 innings pitched in MLB, and will never regain the velocity that he lost, it will become apparent that a number of factors bode well for his future effectiveness. This is not to say that he will be the Cy Young winner he was in the past, but that he will be an above-average pitcher for years to come.
Many of the factors that back this up come from mathematics. Statistical analysis shows that the batting average of balls in play for hitters against Sabathia is .307 in 2013, while his career average .292. In addition, the percentage of batters who bunt against Sabathia and get on base is up from his 27 percent career average to 50 percent in 2013.
Both of these statistics indicate that Sabathia has been unlucky to some degree, as his percentage of fly balls allowed this season is actually down from his career average, and his ground ball percentage is identical to his career average. This shows that some of the extra runs allowed by Sabathia just comes down to bad luck, and that his ERA should actually be lower than it is.
This bad luck could come down to the Yankees’ defense having featured a plethora of players that were aging and very poor on the defensive side of the game.
Besides from the statistics, another thing that will keep him from continuing to go downhill is his bulldog mentality. He refuses to give up in any situation, which helps him to continuously go deep into games, whether or not he is pitching effectively. No statistic better magnifies this mentality then the fact that Sabathia has thrown 100 or more pitches in 23 out of 29 starts during the 2013 season, and no amount of age can change that.
In the end, no amount of statistical analysis will bring back the velocity that made Sabathia one of the great pitchers of his generation, but losing velocity does not mean that he will never be an above-average pitcher again in the future.