Let it be said that as far back as last year and during spring training this year, I was one of those naysayers who took Carsten Charles Sabathia to task in columns like this one for not being able to make the transfer from flamethrower to pitcher.
Tellingly, his manager and teammates never faltered and remained in his corner both publicly and within the clubhouse. They believed in his character and stalwart tendencies when he’s on the mound.
And in one of the most compelling human stories of the season thus far, C C Sabathia has pitched his way to being a bona fide candidate for the American League All Star Squad.
He’s this year’s Renaissance Man………..
All we need to know about his stats this year is that he has the second lowest ERA in the league (2.20). But beyond that, his ability to reinvent himself has given him confidence that appeared to be lacking since his return to the staff following surgery and rehab.
He was fitted for a knee brace and that has helped, but nothing could be “fitted” for his head to make everything better. He did that (quietly) by himself in bullpen sessions refining his change up and developing a new spin on his repertoire with a cutter – a pitch that looks like a fastball until just before it reaches the plate and cuts a bit in or our depending on the batter (left or right side). Ask the batters who faced Mariano Rivera for twenty years what it’s like…….or better yet watch the video (here).
But it’s even more than that. His numbers with runners on base and in scoring position are among league leaders holding the opposition to a .203 batting average. In short, he’s remembered what he used to be like when men got on base……a bulldog who doesn’t give in and makes the pitch that he has to make when he needs it the most.
And……stay off the fat part of the plate which he’s been able to do having given up a mere two home runs in 61 innings pitched. The Yankees are hoping that he can be a driving force of influence on two young arms in the rotation – Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi (below) who struggle their command in the strike zone and always seem to make the wrong pitch when men are on base.
Both pitchers have the right stuff but it is their makeup that comes into question. Sabathia is a pro’s pro and a young inexperienced pitcher should be on the top step of the dugout observing his pitch selection and location, especially when he’s in trouble.
To be sure, he’s a genuine feel good story for baseball this season. Though unlikely because managers tend to stack their selections on relievers, it would be fitting if Sabathia can make his fifth All Star appearance.