Last night was not a terrible CC Sabathia start. He made it into the eighth inning. He gave up a homer to Mike Trout, but there’s no shame in that. The much bigger problem for the Yankees was the fact that they only managed one run off of C.J. Wilson and company, thanks in part to Mike Trout running down three balls that should’ve been gappers. Again, no shame in having Mike Trout beat you. Still, he was not particularly sharp, and if this game counts as the best start you get out of Sabathia every couple of months, it’s a problem.
Are there any solutions to this problem? If you’re Joe Girardi and the Yankees your solution is just to say that he looked pretty good out there compared to how he’s been lately, say he’s your horse and that he’ll come around. Which makes sense given who Sabathia is and that he makes $23 million a year to start games.
But if you look at his numbers and divorce them from his paycheck and reputation, you realize that the big lefty in the Yankees uniform is basically a relief pitcher at this point. Check out his splits per number of pitches in a game:
- Pitches 1-15: .234/.294/.404
- Pitches 16-30: .317/.339/.426
- Pitches 31-45: .318/.333/.523
- Pitches 46-60: .333/.357/.718
Put differently, once Sabathia gets past 45 pitches, everyone he faces turns into Lou Gehrig who gets on base a bit less but hits for more power than the Iron Horse did. And that’ before you look at his righty-lefty splits, in which he allows a stingy .458 OPS vs. lefthanded hitters but a fat .954 OPS vs. righties.
Politics — and, to be fair, Sabathia’s comfort level, which could be detrimental how he pitches even in his first couple of innings — will likely prevent it from happening, but maybe the best thing for the Yankees is for Sabathia to go to the pen. Or to not go too deeply into games in the first place, by either pairing him up with a young starter who has stamina concerns himself for a two-headed approach to games.
That’s rather radical and it’s totally understandable if no changes are pursued, but at this point Sabathia is death once he gets into the part of games where most front line starters have shifted into cruise control. It’s a problem the Yankees and Sabathia need to solve if they want to stay in the thick of things this year.
MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.
Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.
The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.
Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.
The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.
He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.