CC Sabathia looks like a reliever

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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.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.