C.C. Sabathia: Fantasy Ace or Disgrace?
Why is C.C. a scary proposition? With the 2008 Fantasy Baseball season now in full swing, it’s time to look at a guy who was highly regarded before the season. In 2007, C.C. Sabathia made huge strides in the fantasy world. Sabathia, ladies and gentlemen, is the big guy, the 300 pound pitcher who made the jump last year from very good to elite pitcher. The question I pose to you fantasy owners who have him keeper leagues and already have him on your teams, is will he duplicate his CY Young season?
The answer I have come up with for the upcoming 2008 season is a resounding no. Why, will he not duplicate this performance or improve upon on it? The 2007 playoffs have become a major concern in regards to C.C because he was tremendously wild last post season. At first glance I thought it may have been nerves. Now looking back on it, it seems that the problem goes much deeper. After studying the 2007 season, there is one red flag that stands out among his season stats. Sabathia’s innings dramatically increased from the previous season. Last season C.C. threw a career high in innings with a total of innings 256 and a third innings. This total increased 64 innings from the previous season. The increase of 50 innings last season plus the postseason is extreme causes for concern. In addition, his weight is extremely high which is a recipe for disaster. Many experts believe this is not something to worry about, but this is a cause for concern and needs to be accounted for when drafting Sabathia in fantasy leagues. In recent years pitchers whose innings increased by 30 innings or more have had less than stellar seasons the following year. C.C’s innings increased by double that amount which has to be viewed as a warning sign.
Listed below are examples of pitchers whose innings increased by more than 30 innings from the previous season and have had less than stellar seasons the following years.
Case 1: Roy Halladay- In 2003, The “Doc” had come off his finest season with 266 innings pitched, a 3.25 era, 1.07 whip and 204 strikeouts. He also tallied 22 wins while striking out 7 guys per 9 innings. Halladay had career highs in wins, whip and strikeouts, but also innings. The following season Halladay landed on the DL twice with shoulder problems, while making only 21 starts. Since that 2003 season the “Doc” has not sniffed those strikeout numbers, innings pitched, or wins. Since 2003, Halladay’s best season consisted of 6.5 strikeouts per 9 innings. This showcases the pressure of an increase in innings and how it may have contributed to his DL stints. To compensate for the injuries Halladay may have been pitching to contact more and striking out less batters, thus taking Halladay out of the elite pitching category.
Case 2: Esteban Loaiza- We all remember that magical 2003 season in which he more than likely went as an undrafted free agent. Loaiza struck out 207 batters posted a 2.90 era, had a whip of 1.11, won 21 games, and pitched more than 226 innings, which was 75 more than his previous season. The next season he was drafted high in most fantasy leagues based on his numbers from the 2003 season. Unfortunately, Loaiza let those owners down because he posted a 5.70 era, a 1.57 whip with only 10 wins and 117 strikeouts. The increase in innings from the previous season likely led to his pitches being more hittable and a decrease in his velocity. Since that 75 inning increase he has never had a season even remotely close to 2003.
Case 3: Rich Harden – Harden was the hardest throwing, highest ceiling player of any of the Oakland pitching staff during the glory days of Zito, Hudson, and Mulder. Harden had his big innings increase from 2003-04 in which he threw 115 more innings than the previous season. He pitched 189 innings struck out 167 guys had a 3.99 era and 1.33 whip with 11 wins in 2004. For a second year player the following season he looked poised for a breakout in 2005. This made trading Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder easier to handle for the A’s knowing they had Harden poised for a breakout. The following season the injury bug bit him hard with two DL stints, one to his oblique and the other to his shoulder that ended his season. The next year he was hit with two more trips to the DL and last season he was out after pitching only 25 innings and now this season he has landed himself back on the DL already. The big increase in innings for Harden seemed to have affected him pretty badly and crippled those fantasy teams who took him expecting him to have a healthy ace. Even though Harden still has tantalizingly talent, he is a guy who can not be trusted.
What does this have to do with C.C.? Well his innings increase was over 30 innings and finished at 64 innings with the postseason factored in. This trend cannot sit well with C.C. owners, and fantasy owners are already seeing the results so far in the 2008 season. He has looked more like a fantasy disgrace than an ace. For those people who have drafted him, it seems to have been a mistake thus far. Will C.C turn it around this season? You have to assume he will, but with his era at an atrocious 13.5 and a whip of 2.56, even if he does turn it around you will be looking at an era in the low fours and a whip in the 1.3 range. These are not the kind of numbers you draft to be the ace of your fantasy staff. Good luck C.C owners, this season he may have gone from CY Young to CY Done.