Sabathia's getting a bad rap for October performances

Updated: October 1, 2009, 1:07 AM ET

Jeff Curry/US Presswire

CC Sabathia has had his issues in the postseason, when he is 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA in five starts.

There was a time when people tried to make the argument that Randy Johnson wasn't a "big-game pitcher" because of a playoff series with the Mariners and a stunning performance by Kevin Brown and the Padres in 1998.

And we know where that theory went when Johnson, and Curt Schilling, pitched the Diamondbacks to the 2001 world championship; now he's preparing for his first-ballot election to Cooperstown. For weeks now, it's been the same thing about CC Sabathia. Yeah, he leads the American League in wins with 19 and is fourth in earned run average and quality starts and second in innings pitched. But what about Octobers of the past?

In 2001, he pitched a terrific game for the Indians against the Mariners, six innings and two runs. Suddenly, things went terribly wrong in 2007 and 2008. Against the Red Sox in the 2007 ALCS, he made two starts and allowed 12 runs in 10½ innings. Against the Phillies this past October, he lost Game 2. In those Boston and Philadelphia series, he allowed 17 earned runs and 23 hits in 14 innings in three starts.

Let's look at the circumstances. In 2007, Sabathia had beaten the Yankees in the ALDS, even though he was tired and a little out of sync. But by the time he faced Boston, he was at the 246-inning mark and was exhausted from pitching Cleveland into the postseason, and when he hit the wall, he completely lost his command.

Last year, Sabathia's playoff start against the Phillies was his fourth straight on three days' rest, and, as in the year before, he had expended all his energy getting his team into the playoffs. Look, the Brewers hadn't been in the postseason since 1982, and he took the chance on hurting himself before entering the free-agent market to get them into the playoffs. He didn't worry about wearing out his arm or suffering some injury. All he cared about was getting his teammates into the postseason and giving the fans of Milwaukee their first real joy since Robin Yount won his first MVP.

Contrast all that with the surfboard the Yankees have ridden into this postseason. Sabathia has been brilliant with five straight wins in September, all seven-inning outings, including this past Saturday's battle against Daisuke Matsuzaka, when Sabathia was throwing 97 mph in the seventh inning; he won six straight in August. He hasn't failed to get to the seventh inning once since July and is 11-1, 2.36 since the All-Star break.

Then look at what he had to do in Cleveland and Milwaukee compared with the way he has been handled by Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Sabathia is at 227 1/3 innings -- and has thrown 311 fewer pitches than in 2008 -- and will be at 233 or so going into the playoffs. In contrast to last year, he started on Sept. 13 with an extra day's rest, five days between starts. He had the extra day when he started on the 19th. When he faced Boston on Saturday, he had six days' rest. He will have six days' rest before his next start and before his start opening the Yanks' ALDS.

Because of the way Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland have prepared their best pitcher for the long haul, what happened in the 2007 ALCS and 2008 NLDS is essentially irrelevant to the 2009 playoffs. Just because Sabathia is polite, congenial and one of the most popular players in the game doesn't mean he isn't tough. In the words of Pete Townshend, he was born with a plastic spoon in his mouth.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman didn't beat around the Geico stack when Sabathia hit the market because there are few legitimate No. 1 power pitchers in the game. He paid him because CC is precisely what the Yankees haven't had for a long time now, and everyone in that New York clubhouse expects that, on a team of big names and huge production, he is going to be the October giant.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Sept. 28 | Sept. 27 | Sept. 24 | Sept. 23 | Sept. 22

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPSITUATION
Aaron Hill, TOR36BuchholzTop 2: 3-2, 1 Out. None on.
Adam Lind, TOR33BuchholzTop 1: 1-2, 0 Outs. 1 on.
Miguel Cabrera, DET33DuensingBot 2: 2-1, 0 Outs. None on.
Dan Uggla, FLA31HudsonTop 4: 0-0, 1 Out. None on.
Curtis Granderson, DET29NathanBot 10: 1-1, 0 Outs. None on.
Lance Berkman, HOU25HappTop 3: 1-1, 2 Outs. None on.
Joey Votto, CIN24PineiroBot 3: 3-1, 1 Out. None on.

The complete list of Tuesday's homers

ON DECK: WEDNESDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Twins at Tigers, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Tigers and Twins split Tuesday's doubleheader, putting the AL Central in the same place at the start of Wednesday as it was at the start of Tuesday -- with Detroit two games ahead. Carl Pavano has dominated the Tigers this year; the right-hander is 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA in five starts against Detroit.

Marlins at Braves, 7 p.m. ET

The Braves could not keep pace with the Rockies, losing earlier in the night Tuesday and falling three behind Colorado. Javier Vazquez tries to continue his perfect month for Atlanta; he is 4-0 in September, 5-0 in his past six starts.

Brewers at Rockies, 8:40 p.m. ET

With a three-game lead in the NL wild-card race, the Rockies look to Jason Hammel. He already has beaten Milwaukee once this year, tossing six solid innings in a 3-2 win on June 9 at Miller Park. Jeff Suppan is coming off a rough outing; he gave up 12 hits and eight runs in a 9-4 loss against the Phillies.

For the rest of Wednesday's schedule, click here.

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BBTN ON THE AIR: WEDNESDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Tim Kurkjian, Chris Singleton
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Tim Kurkjian, Chris Singleton

BBTN MINUTE: TWINS IN A SURVIVAL GAME

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at the Yankees' flair for the dramatic after New York won yet another game Tuesday in its final at-bat, beating the Royals 4-3 by scoring twice in the bottom of the ninth:

Most walk-off wins
AL teams (past 55 years)
Year Team Walk-off wins
1987 Twins* 16
2009 Yankees 15
1968 Tigers* 15
2004 A's 15
2004 White Sox 15
1967 White Sox 15
* Won World Series

WEB GEMS

TUESDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Adam LindAdam Lind had three hits in the Blue Jays' 8-7 win over the Red Sox. No big deal, right? Well, all three hits were home runs. Lind hit a two-run shot in the first and solo shots in the fifth and seventh to raise his season total to 35.
WORST
Jeremy GuthrieJeremy Guthrie didn't have an awful night; he pitched seven innings and gave up three runs. But he suffered the loss in the Orioles' 3-1 loss. Why so significant? It was the Orioles' 12 consecutive defeat, which was good (or bad) enough to make it the longest of the season in the majors.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Carl Pavano

Carl Pavano takes the hill for the Twins on Wednesday night against the Tigers. In his first 10 starts since coming to Minnesota, Pavano has gone 4-3 with a 3.85 ERA. He has pitched quite well his past four starts. The Twins have won all four of those outings, and Pavano has posted a 2-0 record with a 3.45 ERA.

Pavano's big adjustment has been throwing his fastball more often, which has set up his changeup for big success. He has gone from throwing his fastball less than 50 percent of the time to throwing it on more than 58 percent of his pitches in his past four outings. He has used his changeup at the right time.

Pavano's changeup with Twins
First six starts Past four starts
Changeup pct. 17.8 10.8
K pct. of PA 7.1 21.4
Strike pct. 74.1 78.6
Chase pct. 43.1 60.9
SLG .407 .286

Since Pavano's first start with the Twins on Aug. 8, the Tigers are third in the AL in batting average (.294) and second in the AL in slugging percentage (.475) against the changeup.

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF WEDNESDAY'S GAMES

Fantasy Adam Madison examines the 15 games on Wednesday's slate.

Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound, and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Wednesday. Daily Notes

HUNT FOR OCTOBER

Here's the latest in the playoff races:

NL WILD CARD
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Rockies 89-68 -- 86.3%
Braves 86-71 3.0 13.6%
AL CENTRAL
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Tigers 84-73 -- 81.2%
Twins 82-75 2.0 18.8%

For more on all the playoff races, see the Hunt for October