Gazing upon pitcher C.C. Sabathia in street clothes, the last thing anyone would suspect is that he’s an elite athlete. Putting it mildly, let’s be kind, but he’s fat. At 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds, how else would you describe him?
Appearances aside, the New York Yankees’ left-hander is actually one of baseball’s top hurlers, and one of the best spanning the last three decades. Sabathia has been 64-28 over the last three-plus seasons.
Sabathia is a winner, with a career mark of 145-84 over 10 big-league seasons, for a .633 winning percentage.
Having pitched with the Cleveland Indians for seven-and-a-half seasons, this is Sabathia’s second campaign with New York, where he signed a seven-year, $161-million free-agent deal, becoming the best-paid hurler in history, after 17 starts in 2008 with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he finished 11-2 and posted a 1.65 earned-run average.
Sabathia has never had an off-season, and has been remarkably consistent. The American League East-leading Yankees were in town this past weekend flexing their brawn and pitching arms, as Sabathia opened the three-game series against the Dodgers by tossing a four-hitter over eight innings in a 2-1 victory. Sabathia won his ninth decision against three setbacks, striking out seven and walking three.
Sabathia’s pitching motion, like his calm personality, is free and easy. When the ball leaves his massive hand, it’s quickly on top of the hitter. His fastball tops out at 95 miles-per-hour, and his sharp-breaking curveball drops from belt-buckle to knees majestically.
Forget about trying to time Sabathia’s change, because it comes out of a fastball motion, but is 10 miles-an-hour slower.
Statistically speaking, 2007, his final full season with the Tribe, was his best. Sabathia won the AL Cy Young award after a 19-7 outing and a 3.21 ERA, with 209 strikeouts and 37 walks.
Then last season came along, and Sabathia equaled, and perhaps surpassed that mark by closing out the season with a 19-8 record, 197 strikeouts, 67 walks and a 3.37 ERA.
The main difference being that Sabathia was the ace of the staff that helped win the World Series.
In three playoff tiers, Sabathia finished 3-1, where he fanned 32 with nine walks.
In the AL Divisional Series against the Minnesota Twins, Sabathia, who played several sports in high school, including football, where he was offered a scholarship by UCLA, went 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA, then finished 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA against the Angels, earning the AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player trophy, and finally closing out the run with an 0-1 mark and a 3.29 ERA in the World Series when he faced the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies.
Sabathia’s meteoric rise from the tough streets of the Bay Area to being Cleveland’s first-round selection in 1998, was both amazing and poetic. As a youth, scouts touted him as can’t miss.
Humble and extremely generous with his time and money, Sabathia and his wife launched the PITCH IN Foundation that is dedicated to enriching the lives of inner-city youth by raising self-esteem through education and athletic activity, said he owes his success to God and a hard-working mother, who made it easier for him to prosper in his chosen profession.
The Yankees are thrilled that she did, because everything so far has worked out perfectly fine.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.