I’m sure everyone, Yankee’s fans or not, has been wondering what went wrong with C.C. Sabathia. A dominant ace starter had been un-C.C.-like until the recent 3 or 4 starts. Here is a look at the problem on Riveraveblue: http://riveraveblues.com/2013/08/cc-sabathia-weight-loss-and-release-points-92591/
Early on, back in April, fastball velocity was believed to be the root cause of his problems. Sabathia came out of the gate sitting in the 88-89 mph range, occasionally hitting 91 or 92, but his heater has picked up some oomph as the weather warmed up and the season progressed.
Sabathia’s fastball isn’t what it was even two years ago, but it has been trending upward in recent months. In his most recent start, he averaged 92.6 mph and topped out at 94.0 mph. That’s plenty. Velocity, the pure radar gun reading, is not the reason the Yankees nominal ace has been pitching like a number five starter.
One possible (and suddenly popular) explanation has been his weight loss. Sabathia is a big dude with broad shoulders and a big ass, he’s built to carry a lot of weight, but he’s shed upwards of 30 pounds in each of the last two offseasons. Losing weight is a good thing, especially when you’re talking about a pitcher with a twice surgically repairing landing knee. That doesn’t mean pitching with fewer pounds is easy though, it requires an adjustment.
“The weight loss has created a balance problem for him,“ said one evaluator to Nick Cafardo recently. “He’s all over the place. He’s learning how to pitch in that body, a body he’s really never had. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him other than that. Sometimes you pitch at a certain weight all your life and then someone has the brilliant idea that you should lose weight because it’s putting stress on your knees, you do it, and then you’re dealing with something else.”
According to PitchFX, Sabathia’s average release point has dropped 1.68 inches from 2012 to 2013 after dropping 2.04 inches from 2011 to 2012. His release point has also drifted an additional 1.8 inches towards first base from last year to this year. Think about the hands on a clock; his release point was sitting at one o’clock last year but has slid down and further out towards two o’clock. That slight change in arm slot seems small but it can make a huge difference, especially when you’re talking about the bite on a slider or the ability to drive a fastball downhill.
“The consistent problem is the command,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild to Andy McCullough two weeks ago. “Even though his strike percentages are okay, it’s what’s going on in the strike zone. A lot of his fastballs and changeups are cutting. Which is a major problem for him.”
That cutting action hasn’t really shown up in PitchFX — Sabathia’s fastball has an extra half-inch or so of horizontal movement this year, which is nothing — but is something Rothschild has mentioned as a problem for several weeks now. It also seems like something that could be attributed to the lower release point. Dropping the arm creates more movement, it’s just the physics of this whole pitching thing. That’s why sidearmers and submariners always have those ridiculous fall off the table sinkers and frisbee sliders.
So the question now is why has his release point (and his arm slot) dropped? Is it because of the weight loss? Is it the toll of over 2,800 career regular season and postseason innings? Is it the result of his offseason elbow surgery? Is Sabathia muscling up in an effort to create the velocity he’s lost over the years? I don’t know. It could be none of those things or it could be all of those things. Pitching mechanics and deliveries are weird like that. They’re these fine-tuned yet never quite perfect unnatural acts, and sometimes stuff goes wrong for no apparent reason.
If the problem is Sabathia’s recent weight loss, then it’s probably a good thing because it should be easily correctable. I’m not talking about gaining the weight back, that’s kinda silly. The weight loss is healthy and he should keep it off. It’s a good thing because it’s something he can adjust to and iron out with enough reps. It’s been a challenge so far, but no one said it would be easy. I suspect Sabathia’s career workload and offseason elbow surgery are playing a part in his awful season though, and although I have faith in the big guy to figure it out, I can’t say for certain that he will.
◎ 可能原因1：減重，但觀察家Nick Cafardo提出不同看法：「C.C.身體在適應瘦身後如何投球，我不認為這會有甚麼問題。有時你一輩子身體以同一重量在投球，但有人卻說你該減肥，以減少身體對膝蓋的壓力，於是你減肥，然後就必須去應對其他問題」。
◎ 可能原因2：放球點。根據PitchFX，C.C.今年的放球點比起2012年平均掉了 1.68吋，且2012年的放球點與2011年的相比已掉了2.04吋。再者，比起2012年，他今年放球點往一壘方向位移了1.8吋。想像一下時鐘的指針，C.C.放球點去年在一點鐘方向，但今年往下掉到兩點鐘方向，這手臂位置的改變似乎很小，但造成的結果可能大不相同，尤其是滑球引誘或快速球往下墜的能力。
◎ 佐證：投手教練 Larry Rothschild說：「雖然C.C的好球帶沒問題，但麻煩卻發生在好球帶內。他很多快速球和變速球會切球，這是他很大的問題」。雖然C.C的快速球水平位移〈尾勁〉今年增加約半吋左右，但 PitchFX並沒有顯示出C.C的切球情況，這是Rothschild好幾週以來一直提到的問題，這也似乎是放球點較低所造成的問題。把手臂放低會產生較多尾勁，這是投球的物理機制，也是為什麼側投和下勾投手總是會投出超低的伸卡球和曲滑球。