Man. It was just days ago that we were discussing what C.C. Sabathia’s arrival in Milwaukee meant for their 2008 season. After going 6-8 in Cleveland, the hefty lefty was nearly unhittable for the Brewers by going 11-2 with an ERA of 1.65. But similar to what occurred last season for the Tribe, Sabathia entered the post season, and took the hill as a completely different pitcher.
Last night’s game saw the big man toss less than four innings, allowing five runs on six hits and four bases on balls. His career post season ERA is just a few ticks under eight, while his regular season numbers are more than half. Sabathia has only seen four seasons in the majors where his ERA is north of four, the last being in 2005 (4.03). But once he hits the playoffs, he hasn’t seen an ERA under five, with the last season being 2001 (3.00). An even uglier number: Sabathia has walked 22 batters in 25 innings of post season baseball.
Is it a coincidence that 2001 was Sabathia’s lowest season of total innings pitched (180.3) through his entire career? The 253 innings that C.C. pitched this season is the largest amount of his career by a dozen. He threw eight more innings with the Brewers than he did in Cleveland this year, though appearing in one less game. In 17 games for the Brewers, Sabathia tossed seven complete games. And we’ve also mentioned the fact that Milwaukee tossed him out on the hill on three days of rest…multiple times.
But is it the innings pitched? Or is it mental? Some players are just not big game pitchers. Brett Myers had an awful start to the 2008 season, one that saw him spend time in Clearwater with Philly’s high-A affiliate. But in seven innings of pitching last night, Myers allowed two hits in seven innings of work.
Granted, the big man is not exactly getting a ton of run support. As mentioned, the Brewers weren’t touching Myers last night. Last season, Sabathia received one run of support in his first outing against the Red Sox. During Game 5, the Indians managed one run for the entire game – not that a few more would have helped with Sabathia giving up 10 hits. But when your team isn’t hitting, a lot of undue pressure can pile up.
He admitted that last year he went into the playoffs “thinking that I had to throw no-hitters and shutouts every game. I think that’s why you saw me pressing.”
But in the end, ace pitchers (that will undeniably get “ace” money) need to be relied on in the playoffs. A team will toss roughly $150 million to Sabathia this year, and that will get them plenty of solid games. But given his track record in the playoffs, is it worth it? What is the cause of this autumn breakdown? And most importantly, can it be avoided?