CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees finished his regular season work this week. He'll pitch a simulated game before his start in the playoffs. His 2011 ended 1/3 of an inning short of his 2010 total, making a comparison of the two seasons easy. CC pitched both better and worse than last year.
The big lefty posted a 3.00 ERA, 0.18 runs lower than in 2010. His opposition batting statistics, however, were a bit higher.
Note that what happened was an increase in singles allowed. He walked fewer batters (only a four point increase in his OBP) and gave up fewer long hits (a six point increase in slugging percentage). CC traded some walks for singles, and as far as his ERA was concerned, it didn't matter that much.
The real improvement in Sabathia shows up in his attacking the strike zone:
Milliliter not only induced more swings, he induced batters to chase more pitches out of the zone, resulting in more misses. On top of that, CC picked up more strikes when batters didn't swing. He did a better job dominating the strike zone, so why did he give up more hits?
|In Play Pct||42.0%||39.8%|
Even though hitters were putting the ball in play less, they were finding holes more. Let's face it, the Yankees left side of the infield is getting old, and more balls get through on that side of the field. With better defense behind him CC might have dropped his ERA even further. His increased strikeout rate and lower walk rate made up for the fielders behind him.