In his first start since May 2014, CC Sabathia gave the New York Yankees a sense of hope that he can possibly still be a productive for them throughout the 2015 campaign.
Throughout his 5.2 innings pitched against the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night, Sabathia allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits, striking out eight batters while walking none.
The Blue Jays did most of their damage in the second inning, as they scored four runs on five hits. What the box score doesn’t tell you is that the big inning could have been avoided if Sabathia fielded a come-backer that appeared to have been a possible double play ball.
If you look deeper into this ball game, there are a few things that Sabathia did that were impressive. Out of the 24 batters he faced, Sabathia retired 17 of them, retiring 7 of them by ground ball outs. In a hitter-friendly ballpark, it’s crucial that Sabathia keeps the ball on the ground, as short fly-balls can easily turn into home runs at Yankee Stadium.
Sabathia also had eight strikeouts, which was higher than many people anticipated. On a cold and rainy night in the Bronx, Sabathia was able to use his command to his advantage, as he threw 72% of his pitches for strikes (68 of 95 pitches).
Of course, the days of seeing Sabathia throw a 95 MPH fastball right by a batter are over, but he showed on Thursday night that he can take a Andy Pettitte type of approach and still get hitters out. With the use of his off-speed pitches, he was also able to keep the Blue Jays potent offense off balance for most of the outing. Even when they tacked on the four runs in the second inning, Toronto didn’t hit the ball hard against Sabathia, as many of the balls put in play were softly hit.
Looking at this start in total, it was a pretty impressive start for Sabathia, but there are some things that he is going to have to do in order to get better as the season moves along.
Must avoid the bad inning: Sabathia was hurt by a rough second inning on Thursday night, but was able to bounce back after. This can’t be a reoccurring theme for Sabathia, as he must limit the damage as much as he can.
Keep attacking the strike zone: By getting ahead of the count, Sabathia was able to utilize his off-speed pitches to get hitters to chase outside of the strike zone. If he can continue to get ahead in the count, Sabathia can continue to fool hitters at the plate.
Command, Command, Command: Most likely, Sabathia won’t have the good command that he had in his first start for every start he makes during the season. Now that he is still transitioning into a new type of pitcher, Sabathia has to learn how to get outs even when his command isn’t spot on, because with the lack of velocity, a mistake can ultimately turn out to hurt him.
For his first start of the season, the Yankees and fans of the team should be optimistic with Sabathia’s performance. There definitely is room for improvement, and without a doubt he remains a question mark for the Yankees rotation, but with his first start, Sabathia showed that he might be able to be a very productive piece to this rotation as the season moves forward.