Key Stats: For the second consecutive season, C.C. Sabathia was tied for the Major League lead in wins. Last year he finished with a career high 21. The statistic of wins in both real baseball and fantasy baseball does not hold the importance that it once did because other stats tell a more accurate story of how good a pitcher is, but like it or not, it’s still one of the five most basic stats kept in the fantasy game. And in the case of Sabathia, the fact that he was a wins leader two years in a row, does make him a primary candidate to lead the league for a third straight year. He has three things that work in his favor.
- His team scores runs. Last year they scored more than anybody. They will be in the top two or three again this season.
- He pitches a ton of innings. The last two seasons he’s been sixth and third respectively. One way or another, by the time he’s done pitching this means that he’s going to get a decision.
- He’s good. He’s had an ERA that is at least 0.89 better than the league average the last four seasons.
Skeptics Say: Sabathia is still just 30 years old, so if you aren’t worried about Roy Halladay (and most people think he’s either number one or two in the game) heading toward age 34, you shouldn’t be worried about Sabathia’s age. What is a little concerning is his weight and the amount of innings he has thrown to this point in his career. Ultimately people have been using the weight as a concern for C.C. since he entered the league, and look where it’s gotten him. And of course he did have that contract year with the Indians and Brewers in which he seemed to pitch everyday en route to leading the league in innings. The next year, he was the same old C.C. One of the reasons that Sabathia can be ranked this high is that he is a safe pick as far as starting pitchers go.
Peer Comparison: To further illustrate that Sabathia’s 2011 outlook, and in an even broader sense the rest of his career, let’s look at where David Wells from his age 35 season on. Wells is listed on Baseball Reference at 187 pounds, but during his 35-year-old season in which he threw his perfect game, the camera must have added an extra hundred pounds. Wells won 121 games from age 35 on on despite not having the best health habits. Another bigger player, Bartolo Colon, won more games from ages 30 to 32 than any other stretch of his career.
As far as the age goes, the prospects for improvement aren’t great, but Sabathia shouldn’t get too much worse over the next couple of seasons either. Here is a look at five players who are or will be in the Hall of Fame and how they were from ages 27 through 29 versus ages 30 through 32:
Randy Johnson (ages 27-29): 44 wins, 10.5 K/9, 3.63 ERA 1.33 WHIP in 667 innings
Tom Glavine (ages 27-29): 51 wins, 5.8 K/9, 3.37 ERA, 1.35 WHIP in 603.1 innings
Greg Maddux (ages 27-29): 55 wins, 7.1 K/9, 1.90 ERA, 0.93 WHIP in 678.2 innings
Nolan Ryan (ages 27-29): 53 wins, 9.7 K/9, 3.19 ERA, 1.33 WHIP in 815 innings
Steve Carlton (ages 27-29): 56 wins, 7.5 K/9, 2.97 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in 930.2 innings
Randy Johnson (ages 30-32): 36 wins, 11.7 K/9, 2.92 ERA 1.12 WHIP in 447.2 innings
Tom Glavine (ages 30-32): 49 wins, 6.3 K/9, 2.81 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in 704.2 innings
Greg Maddux (ages 30-32): 52 wins, 6.8 K/9, 2.38 ERA, 0.99 WHIP in 728.2 innings
Nolan Ryan (ages 30-32): 45 wins, 9.8 K/9, 3.31 ERA, 1.34 WHIP in 756.1 innings
Steve Carlton (ages 30-32): 58 wins, 6.7 K/9, 3.09 ERA, 1.08 WHIP in 791 innings
Only Maddux and Glavine, two guys who wouldn’t exactly go down as power pitchers, threw more innings as they got into their 30s. That said, all players continued to be very effective. Speaking of the Hall of Fame, it will be interesting to see how Sabathia plays in his 30s. Given what he has accomplished to date, no starting pitcher in baseball is more well-suited to go into Cooperstown.
Team Outlook: The Yankees did not make one change to their offense this offseason, but when you score 104 more runs than the 9th best run scoring teams, how much do you really want to change? Defensively things could certainly be better along the left side of the infield, but nobody expected Derek Jeter to actually play for another team. The Yankees did get significantly stronger in the bullpen by adding Rafael Soriano. And while there will not be a higher paid set-up man in the game, there won’t be a better one either. Sabathia went 7 to 7.2 innings 13 times last season, so having Soriano follow him will be important to preserving those leads and not enabling inherited runners to come home.
What They’re Saying: Yahoo: #10 Starting Pitcher & #56 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #7 Starting Pitcher; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #28 Overall; John Halpin of Fox Sports: #48 Overall; RotoChamp: #43 Overall
Projection: The K rate has been trending down for three straight seasons as has the strikeout to walk rate, so just keep an eye on it.
19 Wins 3.29 ERA, 1.18 WHIP 199 K in 245 innings
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