Saturday, June 1, 2013
CC Sabathia's clubhouse impact
By Buster Olney
CC Sabathia is a positive force in the Yankees' clubhouse.
A few hours before the Yankees beat the Red Sox, New York general manager Brian Cashman sat down for the Sunday night conversation, and, among other topics, he talked about CC Sabathia and what he has meant to the franchise. Cashman recounted the conversations he had with Sabathia before signing him: Not only did he want Sabathia because he is a really good pitcher but he wanted Sabathia to help alter the Yankees' clubhouse dynamic, which he felt was very sterile.
Sabathia is now four wins from 200 for his career, and, no matter what happens going forward, he’ll be remembered as one of the better pitchers of his generation. But if there was a Teammate Hall of Fame -- for guys like Dale Murphy, Tim Raines -- Sabathia would be a first-ballot inductee.
He treats everybody from the clubhouse kids to the highest-profile teammates the same, with geniality and generosity. His personality in dealing with others is consistent: Nobody has to navigate around his moods. He does everything he can to help others. He blames no one. He is always accountable.
I was once told a story about a situation earlier in his career in which one of his teammates' failures seemed to pop up constantly. Another teammate asked him about it in confidence, to empathize with the pitcher, to give him a chance to vent a little, if he wanted to -- but even in that private setting, Sabathia wouldn't entertain the topic. "I need to pitch better," he said, saying those words in such a way that ended that vein of conversation.
It’s little surprise, then, that Sabathia took his recent slump so hard, so personally; he thought he was letting down everybody else. On Friday, he picked up his teammates.
From ESPN Stats & Information:
CC Sabathia tied Al Downing for the third-most 10-strikeout games in Yankees history.
Ron Guidry -- 23
David Cone -- 21
CC Sabathia -- 17
Al Downing -- 17
Whitey Ford -- 14
How Sabathia won:
A) His 27 sliders netted nine outs (six strikeouts), and he allowed only one base hit with that pitch.
B) His average fastball velocity was a season-high 91.4 mph; he has averaged 90 mph or better with his fastball in eight straight starts.
C) He kept his fastball out of hitters' hot spots. Of his 62 fastballs, only 20 were in the middle third of the batter's strike zone heightwise. In his previous start, 29 of his 54 fastballs (54 percent) were in that area.
Elias: Sabathia is the first Yankees pitcher in more than 100 years to end a drought of at least five straight team losses with a 10-strikeout/zero-walk performance. That had last been done in 1910 by Russ Ford, who threw a complete-game shutout with 10 strikeouts and no walks against the St. Louis Browns, a decision that ended New York’s run of seven straight defeats.
The Nationals won Friday, shaving a game off Atlanta’s lead, but we’re two months into the season and this is where Washington stands, after entering the season as the consensus favorite to win the World Series. (I picked the Nats, too.)
• It’s become sport for the Rangers to try to tap Adrian Beltre on the head because they all know he doesn’t like it -- and manager Ron Washington got into it.
• From ESPN Stats & Info: Miguel Cabrera became the first Tigers player with 12 HRs in a month since Willie Horton also hit 12 in 1968. Through May 31, he’s off to a better start than he was last year when he won the Triple Crown.
BA: .317 in 2012 -- .372 in 2013
HR: 9 -- 16
RBI: 42 -- 61
OPS: .880 -- 1.116
Cabrera capped off a dominant month by joining Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx and Babe Ruth as the only players since 1920 to have 12 HRs and 33 RBIs and average at least .375 at the dish in the month of May.
Mantle in 1956 (.414-16-35) reached those gigantic May numbers and finished the season by winning the Triple Crown and MVP. Sound familiar?
Williams also hit those numbers in 1942 (.376-12-41). He also won the Triple Crown, but finished second to the Yankees' Joe Gordon in the MVP race.
Foxx reached this threshold in 1932 (.429-13-37), the year before he won his Triple Crown. A nice consolation for Foxx was that he won his first career MVP in 1932.
Ruth accomplished this feat twice in his career. Once in 1928 (.414-15-34) and again in 1930 (.383-13-33). Ruth never won a Triple Crown and surprisingly won only one MVP (1923).
I spoke to an evaluator the other day who noted that his team’s internal numbers have the Tigers as the best team in the majors, hands down. But they have this thorny bullpen issue that popped up again Friday night.
Here’s the thing about that: The Tigers have the time to fix it, one way or another. They have time to find a solution. And I’d bet that they will between now and July 31.