New York Yankees ace CC Sabathia had an off year in 2013, to say the least. In fact, he relinquished his spot at the head of the rotation to Hiroki Kuroda in July. The Yankees have been making big moves this offseason, with another possible blockbuster addition approaching in Masahiro Tanaka. If the Yankees are able to win the battle for the 25-year-old Japanese right-hander, then much of their angst over starting pitching will be calmed.
The Yankees, rightly, aren’t counting on Sabathia to be the Sabathia of old in 2014, and the attempt to acquire Tanaka is evidence of that. In 2013, he went just 14-13 after losing some velocity off his fastball. He spent much of the season trying to regain that speed or tweak his techniques to still be effective, but unfortunately, inconsistency reigned for the big fella. His fastball averaged 91.3 mph in 2013, which is 2.1 mph below his career average of 93.4. His changeup also suffered, slowing to 84.8 mph on average, 1.0 mph below the mark for his career. Strikeouts per nine and walks per nine were relatively consistent last year with his career averages, so velocity is really the only issue.
Some speculate that this could be due to nagging injuries, overuse or perhaps even weight loss. The usually hefty southpaw looked like a beanpole last year in comparison to his former self.
Sabathia has always been a workhorse, regularly throwing 200+ innings per season. At age 33, wear and tear is certainly a factor to consider, but he’s also still young enough to keep hope alive. Assuming Sabathia does not regain his velocity over the winter, he and pitching coach Larry Rothschild will have to come up with a plan B.
The key will be to keep striking out batters and holding the walk rate down. If the Yankees get Tanaka and get 15 wins out of Sabathia, they’ll be cooking with gas.
So, can the big guy do it? He’s done it every year with the Yankees except one – last year. Surprisingly, the Yankees actually gave Sabathia decent run support last year, with 4.53 runs per start. That’s more than their season average, which was just over four runs per game. The Boston Red Sox led the league in runs per game with 5.27, for some context.
With some new bats in the lineup for 2014, hopefully the Yankees can provide even more run support to their pitching staff. Not only that, but if Tanaka comes to New York, it will take a significant amount of pressure off of Sabathia, Kuroda and Ivan Nova.
In 2013, pretty much every game felt like a must-win. With new faces on the pitching staff and in the lineup, and hopefully a healthy roster for a change, the pressure to win each game will go down while the chances of winning each game will go up. He can do it. The big guy will be back in 2014. Laura Depta is a New York Yankees writer for RantSports.com. Follow her on Twitter @LauraDepta and add her to your network on Google.