Sabathia has three plus pitches: fastball, breaking ball and changeup. Despite his girth, he's a low injury risk due to his strong fundamental pitching mechanics. On the PPM (Proper Pitching Mechanics) scale, Sabathia rates a 13 on a scale of 0 to 36. By comparison,
Sabathia has been the game's best pitcher since his trade to Milwaukee. What's he's done differently? Not that much, actually. In fact, he pitched just as well in his last five starts with Cleveland as his first four starts with Milwaukee. One change is that he's commanding his fastball to his armside of the plate a little better, and this allows Sabathia to get into more pitcher counts.
Something that will help Sabathia for the rest of the year is just being in the National League. Not only will he get to face a pitcher once through the line-up, but on average National League line-ups 1 through 8 are not as good as those in the American League.
Opposing managers are tempted to stack their line-ups with right-handed hitters since Sabathia is a lefty. However, the numbers don't justify this traditional approach. Here are Sabathia's career lines against righties and lefties:
So while Sabathia does do better against lefties, it's not that significant of a difference. The reason is that Sabathia does such a good job pounding hitters inside -- better than anyone in the game -- and it's effective against hitters from both sides of the plate, especially righties. Because a hitter has less time to react to a good inside pitch, he'll tend to make an adjustment against Sabathia by cheating and starting his swing early. When Sabathia sees this adjustment, he'll make his own adjustment and throw his plus slider or plus change-up. This leaves the batter swinging too early and/or above the ball. With his increased focus on the inside pitch, it's not surprising Sabathia is getting hitters to swing at breaking balls in the dear more than ever before.
1. Don't be afraid to use a left-handed hitter, especially when the lefty is a better overall hitter than the righty you might replace him with. Don't bat a righty just because he's a righty.
2. Use the hit and run, and do it on the first pitch.
3. Have right-handed hitters stand off the plate. That inside fastball is very tough to turn on.
• Strong and athletic frame
• Durability: he's started at least 28 games in his first seven years
• Innings eater: he's average 6.5 innings per start for his career
• Explosive fastball
• Devastating slider, which is a great out-pitch to left-handed hitters
• Improved change-up is now a plus major league pitch
• Sabathia tends to elevate his fastball in the middle of the plate when he gets tired
• Below average range for fielding bunts
• Girth may eventually become a problem, causing stress on his back and knees
Sabathia has improved his mechanics thanks to the work of Cleveland pitching coach