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.

Starters? Openers? Who cares? It’s the lack of offense killing the Brewers

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The talk of Game 5 of the NLCS — and, indeed, the talk of the postseason so far — has been the Brewers’ creative use of their pitching staff. Indeed, Craig Counsell calling for Brandon Woodruff, and removing Miley from the game after just one batter and five pitches, stands as one of the more audacious acts of bullpenning in recent memory.

In light of that strategy, it was tempting to compare and contrast the Brewers’ approach to that of the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw gave up an early run and, as has so often been the case lately, didn’t look super sharp early. But as the game wore on he got stronger, his curve got more devastating and he turned in an ace-like performance, leaving after seven innings of work, retiring the final 13 batters he faced. The Brewers may have an army of pitchers they throw at you, but the Dodgers, on this night, had a Hulk.

That’s all a lot of fun, and it was a tempting narrative to grab a hold of, but you know what? It doesn’t matter a bit. The fact of the matter is that the Brewers have scored two runs in the last 17 innings between Games 4 and 5. Two runs, with one of them being an oh-by-the-way run with out in the ninth tonight. They’ve only scored three runs in their last 24 innings. They could have a college of coaches using a murder of pitchers and they’d still be staring at being down 3-2 like they are right now because the bats have gone cold.

The presumptive NL MVP, Christian Yelich, was 0-for-4 in Game 5 and is only 3-for-20 with three singles in the entire NLCS. Ryan Braun is 5-for-21. Lorenzo Cain is 6-for-24. Games 3 and 4 have, obviously, been the big problems for the Brewers. In those games the entire team is batting .168 with 26 strikeouts and they are 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

Craig Counsell could go back in time, bring back Pete Vukovich, Rollie Fingers, Teddy Higuera, Moose Haas and Jim Slaton, use them all for an inning and two-thirds each and it wouldn’t matter if the Brewers can’t score. That’s the story of the series so far. No matter how much we might want to talk about the pitching shenanigans, that’s the only thing that really matters.