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Yankees hoping for return to form for Sabathia

Despite diminished velocity, veteran lefty can still pitch like an ace
03/04/2014 12:43 PM ET
By Doug Williams

Background: CC Sabathia is a 33-year-old starting pitcher for the New York Yankees. Before signing with New York after the 2008 season, Sabathia had pitched for the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers. He's known for his durability, and has thrown over 200 innings in every season since 2006. In his career, Sabathia has 205 wins and 2,389 strikeouts.

2013 Season: 2013 was Sabathia's worst season to date. He finished with a record of 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA. Many blamed his average fastball velocity -- which was the lowest of his career -- but Sabathia also struggled with his location. He gave up 224 hits in 211 innings, but still managed to finish with 175 strikeouts. 

Greatest Strength: No matter what happens with CC's velocity, he is incredibly durable. Even if he turns into more of a finesse pitcher and is less dominant, the Yankees will still be lucky to have a lefty that can give the team 200 innings and 15 wins. CC is also said to be in the best shape of his career, which can only help his chances to have a comeback season.

Greatest Weakness: It's very possible that Sabathia's greatest strength is also what's hurting him the most. At just 33-years-old, Sabathia is third on the active list in innings pitched with 2,775.1. That's a large number and has been very taxing on CC's left arm. If you were to say that he throws an average of fifteen pitches per inning, that would mean that he has thrown 41,627 pitches in his career, not counting spring training, warmups and bullpen sessions. In terms of possible reasons for his decline in velocity, you don't have to look much further.

Prediction: It's very possible that CC has truly gotten in shape and will have a big comeback season. Yes, he didn't top 88 MPH in his recent spring training start, but Sabathia has never thrown hard in spring training and, when you think about it, there's really no reason to. CC is a good enough pitcher to win with a 90-92 MPH fastball, and he's also smart enough to adjust to something in the 87-89 MPH range. Either way, it'll be very interesting to see what kind of guy steps out on the mound on opening day. 

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