Sabathia’s statistics are deceiving. He entered this season facing a plethora of questions about his weight and ability to pitch without a mid-90s fastball. Judging by his record and ERA, it seems as though he’s been roughed up, which is true to a point but doesn’t exactly tell the whole story. There’s a pattern in all of Sabathia’s losses. He’s not consistently working through trouble and allowing one or two runs to score every inning. Rather, he cruises for most of the game but has one bad inning that ultimately leads to a loss.
On Opening Day against the Houston Astros, he allowed four runs in the first inning and two in the second. After the early onslaught, he settled down, allowing just a walk and two singles before exiting in the sixth.
On Apr. 11 against the Boston Red Sox, he surrendered just one hit and two walks through the first five innings of the game. In the sixth, things fell apart. Jonny Gomes and Grady Sizemore both took Sabathia yard en route to a four-run inning. Sabathia worked a scoreless seventh but the damage was done. The Sox ended up winning the game 4-2.
On Tuesday, the Mariners went three-up, three-down in the first two innings. A strikeout of Robinson Cano in the first was particularly appreciated by the crowd. Sabathia allowed two singles in a scoreless third and struck out Kyle Seager to end a second and third threat in the fourth. In the fifth, the Mariners finally broke through with four runs. When Sabathia opened the sixth with a hit-by-pitch and a single, his night was done and his early success was meaningless.
Sabathia can still dominate lineups without a mid-90s fastball. He’s been outstanding in his three wins, particularly his last two (13 IP, 3 ER, 14 SO, 5 BB), and even in his losses, he’s pitched like an ace for four or five innings before the wheels fell off. The ability is undeniably still there. The problem is maintaining it for the entire outing.
We’re now a month into the season. With Masahiro Tanaka’s success, Sabathia might not be the Yankees’ ace for much longer. Still, if he can avoid the big inning, he’ll pitch like a No. 1 regardless of his spot in the rotation.