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So, I hadn’t realized this, but its been a while since I’ve focused my Bear or Bull spotlight on a pitcher. Maybe it’s because some of my pitcher posts haven’t looked too zesty. And when I say zesty, I’m thinking of you, R.A. Dickey. But I’m still sticking with him, because, well, c’mon man. He does Dickeyface. At least Matt Harvey is still living up to what I said, so there is that. So, I’m going to dabble back towards baseball players who throw off the mound for a living today. Furthermore, the pitcher we’ll be taking an intimate look at will be, non-other-than, the Walrus. You may also know him as Carsten Charles. And, you may also know him as a Tomato. Well, that’s more mine than anyone else’s. Anyhow, last, but not least, you may also know him as CC Sabathia. Not only do we know him by all these various names, we also know him as a stable force in our fantasy rotations, giving us quality production year after year. But times are a changing, and now two months into the season, we are not receiving what was expected. Is this going to continue? Is all hope lost? AM I FREAKING OUT HERE? Maybe. Maybe not. Let’s get through this together.

Pretty much the equivalent to a pitching metronome, CC Sabathia has basically provided, on a yearly basis, what his career line is. And that’s a lowish-3 ERA, 17-win, 200-inning, 200-strikeout guy. In some years, he’s been a bit better, some years, he’s been a bit worse. But he’s pretty much been above average across the board. Not this year, though. We all know that everything ends, nothing lasts forever, something smart about Sylvia Plath, blah-blah, etc.-etc. And in this case, at the age of 32, Sabathia occupies a spot on the baseball aging curve where it all starts to go downhill from here on out. There are obviously exceptions to this rule, but we could be seeing that ‘beginning’ of the end, and, along this path, any number of things could be going on. Sudden erosion of skills, hidden injury, small sample size errors, or, you know, nothing could be wrong. Maybe it’s just bad luck.

So far in 72.2 innings pitched, Sabathia has provided an ERA of 3.96, a FIP of 4.10 and a K/9 of 7.56 and BB/9 of 1.98. These are neither career highs nor are they career lows in any aspect, but if you own him, you’ve seen something less than, that much is certain. The first area of concern is his K/9 of 7.56, which is quite a bit lower than last year’s 8.87 mark. While I would normally point to this as a sign of impending doom, the 7.56 number is not far off from his career rate of 7.76. However, a drop is a drop is a drop. And, just one more for good measure; is a drop. When I see a drop in K/9 and K%, I immediately look at velocity, then SwStr% (Percentage of Strikes that were swung at and missed) and then Contact%, in that specific order.

Lo and behold, Sabathia’s fastball velocity is down to 90.0 miles per hour, dropping 2.3 MPH from last season. In fact, since 2009, his fastball velocity has been trending down from 94.2 MPH, never a good thing. A yearly 2.3 MPH loss might not sound like much, but it is, in fact, enough to not only affect his fastball, but have a large ripple effect on how well Sabathia’s secondary stuff plays. You can see that in the numbers and anecdotal evidence, as his slider, curveball, and changeup have all suffered. Let’s take a look at this theory in action.

This is what you can do with a 94 MPH fastball.

 This is what you can do with an 89 MPH fastball.

 

That was Yunel Escobar hitting a very long homerun. What say you Captain?

Exactly.

But, of course, velocity is only one aspect to take a look at. Next on the to-do list is Sabathia’s SwStr%, which basically measures how many of his strikes are swung at and missed. Usually with velocity loss, you will see this number correlate. So far this season, it stands at 11.5%. Last year? 11.5%. The year before that? 11.2%. Career? 10.8%. Interesting. What we’ve discovered is that in terms of last season, a three year trend, and career, nothing really has changed.

Contact%, in fact, shows the same non-correlation thing going on. Coming in at 76.1% so far, this is not really out of his norm of 76.6% for his career, and has only raised 0.5% from 2012. There is one thing that catches my eye here, and its Zone% (Percentage of pitches seen inside the strike zone). I think, so far, what the numbers are telling us is that there is a velocity loss, but that hasn’t really damaged Sabathia’s effectiveness. However, when you notice that his Zone% sits at 50.6%, almost a full six percent higher than last seasons 44.7%, therein lies the problem. Perhaps because of that velocity loss, he is trying to compensate by throwing pitches more in the zone, trying to challenge or overpower, or locate a bit too much with less stuff. Or his off speed stuff is hanging a bit more than it should. Or his breaking balls are not breaking as much as they used to. In fact, it is most likely all three of those things combined. The simple conclusion is, Sabathia *has* eroded, but that erosion could certainly be overstated at this point. And it’s not like velocity is static. It *could* increase as the season progresses. As the weather gets warmer, its commonly known that pitchers velocities start to rise, so I wouldn’t rule something like that out. But with almost four years of data showing velocity loss, there is an equal, if not greater chance that his velocity will stay the same, or even continue to lower.

Sometimes, I really dislike spotlighting guys like this, because it’s not like Sabathia has totally fallen into the pit of fantasy oblivion. I’m looking at you Hambone. The changes in his skill set we touched upon is not a complete transformation. More like his ‘edges’ are softening up a bit. While he’s giving up a little too much of the long ball, and his ERA is about a half a run higher than expected, the strikeouts are still happening, and the Yankees, much to my perplexity, are still a powerful force in the AL. Wins are still there for him, along with an ability to put up 200 good innings. Not ‘Walrus’ innings, mind you, but still quality.

For the rest of the season, I would expect 10-6/3.62/1.26/131. In redraft leagues, you’re in a tough spot. You could wait for a stretch of games where he K’s 10+ and looks like his old self, which will still undoubtedly occur, and unload at that moment for what the market bears. Personally, I’m more tempted just keeping him this year and riding out the bumps. Afterall, he was drafted at a tier where it will be almost impossible to get that value back, and while he won’t be the same CC Sabathia, there’s no reason why he still can’t be some measure of something quality like in shape and form. The rest of season numbers are still good enough for a number 2 guy on your staff. For keeper leagues, I’d sell during a hot streak, as I alluded to above for redrafts, but it’s not crazy to just stand pat. I don’t think he’s a lost cause. In the next two years, a median output of 15-10/3.50/1.25/170 isn’t crazy to think about. And while we are most likely seeing the end of Sabathia’s dominant stretch, I think the biggest issue will have to do more with us, in that we have to make sure to reset our own expectations. And sometimes its hard to do with such stable guys like Sabathia. Its tough to admit that something that has been automatic for almost 10 years isn’t so automatic anymore. Talk to any long term Roy Halladay owner if you need context.

So yes, reset your expectations, and no longer draft him as a 200 IP, 3.00 ERA, 200 K,  constant 20-win machine. But is there something terribly wrong with a 200 IP, 3.50 ERA, 150K, 15-win machine? Not really. Just make sure to pay for the latter, not the former.

Final Verdict:

You can find jaywrong over on twitter @jaywrong for your immediate fantasy baseball needs, or enjoy his GIF filled Tumblr, aptly named Desultory.

  1. jjj says:
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    trying to acquire Braun:
    was proposed this trade:
    Wainright, chapman, swisher for Hellickson, valverde and braun?? What do you think

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @jjj: Unless you have a brewers4life tatoo on your labia, I’d hold.

  2. Kevin says:
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    Just picked cc up for Bailey…good buy low right?

      • Jay

        jaywrong says:
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        @Kevin: pretty sure none of those guys are Padres, so…

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @Kevin: yeah, its fair. More k’s going your way, so that sways it.

      • goodfold2 says:
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        @jaywrong: bailey’s got a k per ining after 68 innings this year.

        • Jay

          jaywrong says:
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          @goodfold2: I’ll trust 644 innings of data over 68 for the moment.

  3. Jef says:
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    I don’t own, nor have any intention of owning CC anywhere this year, but I read this whole article WHY? Because I’m a nerd, GIF’s are cool, and your analysis is superb. Well done again.

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @Jef: I bow to your wonderful and very correct statement. Thanks.

  4. Jason says:
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    With Brandon Maurer being sent down who takes his place in the rotation? Hultzen and Ramirez have been battling injuries. Would that leave Taijuan Walker as the speculative add?

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @Jason: I’m guessing it’ll be Bonderman. I don’t think the M’s are ready to bring up Hultzen or Walker.

  5. Prezz says:
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    +

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @Prezz: NICKELWATCH

  6. Larry says:
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    Just lost Chavez, which scenario is better?

    Aybar at SS, Prado at 3B, Rendon on bench

    OR

    Aybar at SS, Prado at 3B, Didi backup SS?

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @Larry: I’m leaning the second option while Didi is hot.

  7. Gareth says:
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    Hey Jaywrong, I need your predictive skills.

    A) will Rickie Weeks bounce back this season. Drop him for Walker?

    B) Most droppable reliever out of this motley crue: Parnell, G. Holland, Frieri, Betancourt, Street.

    C)

    Thanks for you help. I’m sure you will ENGAGE these questions to the best of your ability.

    By the way,

    The JJ Abrams new Timeline thing makes a new TV series, set about 15 years after Nemesis a difficult thing to bring to life. I personally would love to see a new crew on the enterprise. You’d have an Alien Captain (A first) With Occasional Cameos from Quark, Picard, Sisko, Worf ect ect.

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @Gareth: I never believed in Weeks, but he’s not this bad. I’m okay moving on to Walker.

      I think Frieri has looked terrible lately.

      I think you can do anything with Trek, even in the old timeline. I’m not a huge fan of the Berman/Braga element, but it would be interesting. I’d watch, sure.

      • Jay

        jaywrong says:
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        @jaywrong: (And by terrible, I mean his advanced stats. Not sure he keeps it up with just one pitch.)

      • Gareth says:
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        @jaywrong: You’re forgetting Ron Moore. He did a nice job with the Battlestar Gallactica reboot.

        I’m not suggesting in any way that Berman, Braga or Moore get involved. Berman and his cronies did almost kill the franchise by suckling that teet dry and making some epic miscalculations.

        I’m suggesting New Writers. New Cast. Fresh Ideas. The cameos would just be a cool fan thing smattered through the series.

        Star Trek is about the future. Into Darkness was better that the other one but the JJ movies are still Just the old crew in shiny new bodies rehashing old tales.

        The best thing they have done is garner new interest from non Trekkies. Heck even Grey said he’s tempted to watch Into Darkness. That keeps Trek alive, which is cool.

        • Jay

          jaywrong says:
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          @Gareth: I didn’t list Moore because I enjoyed BSG.

          I think CBS owns the rights, and there have been rumblings of a series revival. But I find it hard to wonder what would work. It would be intriguing if it did happen though.

  8. James says:
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    Hi Jay. Thoughts on Yasiel Puig? Are the dodgers crazy to consider calling up pederson over puig …. I feel like puig has way more upside than him and can be even better than Cespedes at the major league level..

    So I stashed him for this season with hopes of a permanent call up… Or is that a mistake on my part

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @James: I think Puig will be an average OF with some power, I’m not really as high as others are.

      I wouldn’t call it a mistake, just prospecting, that’s fine if it doesn’t take up a meaningful spot.

  9. Metzkabob says:
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    12 team h2h 5×5 league

    I give rafael soriano and nate mclouth

    I get david price and ryan howard

    thoughts?

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @Metzkabob: Yeah, I’d do that pretty quickly.

  10. AW says:
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    How would you rank these guys of who you would like to have from now for the rest of the year. Jose Altuve, AJ Burnett, Lester, Matt Carpenter, Martin Prado.

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @AW:

      Carpenter, Altuve, Prado

      Lester, Burnett, but its close.

      • AW says:
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        @jaywrong: Thanks! Follow Up: Should I trade Altuve/Moreland for Burnett?

        • Jay

          jaywrong says:
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          @AW: it feels okay if you need pitching. I haven’t decided how to feel about Burnett. Crazy year.

  11. working on improving my offense.

    Was offered Jedd Gyorko for Zack Wheeler.

    I have been lacking in Runs and BA. And my pitching is solid (not world beating, but it is what is leading my team).

    I have Scherzer, Cain, T.Wood, Minor, Cahill, Cashner and some bench pitchers…

    Not sure if Gyorko is worth it for Zach… thoughts?

    • @gbaked: Sorry, 13 team 5×5 very deep keeper league.

      Thanks much Jaywrong!

      • Jay

        jaywrong says:
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        @gbaked: If that’s the case, I’d do it. 20 homerun MI’s don’t fall off trees.

        • @jaywrong: even if my major needs are runs and avg?

          You think i should just take him anyway? Ugh… the met fan in me doesnt wanna give up Wheeler.

          • @gbaked: would trying to get him to take cashner instead be silly?

            • Jay

              jaywrong says:
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              @gbaked: I don’t believe so.

          • Jay

            jaywrong says:
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            @gbaked: offense is offense. I support homerism though, so in your chair, I might hold.

            • @jaywrong: cool. ill push Cashner instead. his fastball has been concerning anyway.

  12. MB says:
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    What do you think of the idea of playing Youk only against lefties in a daily league? Worth a roster spot? Have prado so he would be backup

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @MB: If you have the energy, why not? The benefit could be limited though.

  13. Matt says:
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    Dude, will Hosmer be late bloomer like Edwin and Goldy and Davis OR simply a bust, worse than all the rest?

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @Matt: Not if he keeps on thinking that hitting the ball into the ground is a good thing.

  14. Alex says:
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    Gregorius or Nick Franklin? slg and obp count in this league

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @Alex: I’m leaning Didi short term, Franklin long term.

      • Mark says:
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        @jaywrong: What is long term? this year still? or like 2nd half?

        • Jay

          jaywrong says:
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          @Mark: Yeh, basically, I think Didi is hot, and will come down to earth. Franklin is not flashy, but is okay across the board.

  15. Mark says:
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    Should I regret trading away mclouth instead of aoki and de aza?

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @Mark: no to Aoki, prolly on Aza.

  16. RW says:
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    i need a catcher. currently have RMartin and Savy Perez. the guy that wants my 2Bman BPhilips wants to offer me ither Arrencibia, Mauer or Napoli. Im considering offering him either Trumbo and/or Choo to entice him out of Cdavis any thoughts? comments? racial slurs?

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @RW: No slurs here. I’d aim for Davis, I’m a believer. I’d rather trade Trumbo than Choo.

      Mauer/Nap are safer bets for the Philips part.

  17. J says:
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    Hey since I just found out Matt Kemp was placed on the 15 day DL, would you target Domonic Brown, Evan Gettis or Matt Joyce? I’d be dropping Vernon wells

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @J: dombrown while he’s hot.

      • J says:
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        @jaywrong: @jaywrong:

        Thanks, would you drop Vernon wells, Nate mcclouth or Ike Davis for Dom. Drown?

        • Jay

          jaywrong says:
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          @J: At this point, prolly Ike. Talk about yuck.

  18. Mike says:
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    Hey, just a minor Q- since Rickie Weeks has looked awful this season or wait for him to turn it around like last season ? I’m not even starting him at 2b; starting Ben Zobrist over him. If I were to drop Weeks here are some options available: Neil Walker (Pitt), Jedd Gyorko( SD), Matt Carpenter(STL) I like because I can plug him anywhere; 1b, 2b, 3b, & OF or there’s also Kelly Johnson (TB); I like how’s he’s similar to Zobrist in that I can plug him at 2b or OF. What’s your take on those / Rickie weeks?

    Thanks alot, great site here!

    • Mike says:
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      @Mike:
      I was asking if you would drop Rickie Weeks, I think I left that part out

      • Jay

        jaywrong says:
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        @Mike: yeah, I’m moving on.

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @Mike: i would rather have Carp in OBP leagues, Gyorko everywhere else.

      • Mike says:
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        @jaywrong:

        Alright, awesome thanks; I was leaning with those two anyways- I’m in an 8 team ESPN standard league; H2H like fantasy football

        • Jay

          jaywrong says:
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          @Mike: oh, yeah then, you could stream half your team. Easy drop.

  19. Bob .G. says:
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    For pitchers which potential two start pitcher do you like for the next matchup, week 10- Kyle Kendrick pitches on Monday vs Miami then his next start vs Milwaukee, kris medlen vs Pitt & dodgers, David Phelps vs Cleveland & Seattle, or Jeremy Hefner vs Washington & miami

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @Bob .G.: I’m feeling Medlen for some reason.

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