The Yankees will probably never see Sabathia reprise his 2008 performance. He had career-bests in innings pitched, strikeouts, strikeouts per nine innings and ERA+. He also made 17 starts in the Pacific Coast League National League. Even if the competition there is identical to that in the American League—which it isn’t—Sabathia still got to face the pitcher multiple times a game.
So why is Sabathia performing more like a good No. 2 starter than a man deserving a $161 million contract? Look at his Three True Outcomes: strikeouts, walks and home runs. Sabathia is underperforming in strikeouts and walks, and his home run rate is dead even to last year.
The walks and strikeouts are the most disconcerting. Sabathia is walking 2.6 batters per nine innings (up from 2.1 and his highest since 2005) and only striking out 6.5 (down from 8.9 and his lowest since 2003). His strikeout to walk ratio is 2.51, a steep dropoff from the 4.25 he posted in 2008 and the 5.65 mark that led the league in 2007, his Cy Young season.
Sabathia’s 3.67 ERA isn’t killing the Yankees, but it’s neither unlucky nor in line with how good the lefty has been in the past. Sabathia’s fielding-independent ERA is an almost-identical 3.61. That stat, too, is his highest since 2005.