By: Noah Wright
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The Yankees veteran left hander CC Sabathia has been a very dominant pitcher in recent history. In his time with The Indians, Brewers, and Yankees, Sabathia has had a very good career, one that could make The Hall Of Fame. However, there’s still a good case that he won’t get a call to Cooperstown. With that being said, let's look at CC Sabathia’s chances at The Hall Of Fame.
Let's start with why Sabathia does make The Hall. First, Sabathia has a 61.5 career WAR (according to Baseball Reference). This ranks 56th all time in pitcher WAR. Sabathia outranks Hall Of Famers like Hal Newhouser, and other Yankee legend Whitey Ford. CC also has a good amount of K’s. With 2921 strikeouts and counting, Sabathia ranks 17th all time, and has a chance to get to 3000 K’s before the end of the season. If he reaches that milestone, CC would be one of 17 total players with 3000 or more strikeouts. By the end of his career, Sabathia should pass Hall Of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, and could pass Curt Schilling in that department. Sabatia has just a 1.25 WHIP, which ties with 10 other players, but most notably all time strikeout leader Nolan Ryan. Another thing that helps Sabathia’s Hall Of Fame chances is his recent success. In the last 2 seasons, Sabathia has seemed to find a new way of getting batters out. In 243 innings, Sabatia has a 3.56 ERA, along with a low 2.9 walks per 9 rate. Though his 4.47 FIP can indicate his fielding has helped him a good amount, Sabathia is still a serviceable backend starter even into his late 30’s. Throughout CC’s career, he’s been able to keep bats quiet from both sides of the plate, with righties only hitting a weak .256/.310/.399 in 11,211 plate appearances, and lefty batters hitting a worse .230/.291/.349 in 3052 plate appearances. Sabathia has also won a multitude of awards. His most known award is his 2009 ALCS MVP award, and also won a World Series Ring the same year. CC has gone to 6 all-star games in his 18 year career. Another important thing to mention is that he finished 2nd place in Rookie Of The Year Voting in 2001. His most important award has to be his 2006 Cy Young award with The Cleveland Indians, beating out Red Sox ace Josh Beckett (who finished in 2nd place), and now sadly deceased Blue Jay ace Roy Halladay (who finished in 7th place). In that season, Sabathia pitched in 241 innings, and recorded a 3.21 ERA, 3.14 FIP, and a 1.141 WHIP. While he didn’t have standout strikeout numbers with a 7.8 K’s per 9 ratio, he still had an amazing 1.4 walk per 9 rate, and a league leading 5.65 strikeouts per walk ratio. Sabathia almost won The Cy Young award again in 2010 when he finished 3rd in voting, with then Rays’ ace David Price (who finished 2nd), and Mariners’ righty Felix Hernandez winning the award. While he may not have won it that season, Sabathia still had a better WAR than David Price, who I mentioned finished above him in Cy Young Voting. In his career, CC has finished 5th place or higher in voting 5 separate times. While he may have won The Cy Young in 2006, and nearly won it again in 2010, his best season has to be the 2008 year. During that season, the lefty split time between the Indians and Brewers, and he pitched very similarly to when Verlander was traded to The Astros last season. While his overall numbers that season with The Indians weren’t great, as he had a 3.83 ERA, 3.41 FIP, and 1.234 WHIP in 122 and a third innings with The Indians, it wasn’t until he was traded to The Brewers, with Rob Bryson, Matt LaPorta, and Zach Jackson in exchange for Michael Brantley, when CC really started to perform. In Milwaukee, Sabathia pitched for a miniscule 1.65 ERA, 2.44 FIP, and 1.003 WHIP in 130 and two thirds innings. He lowered his walk rate to just 1.7, and homerun rate to .4. The most notable thing about his time with The Brewers is that he started 17 games, and 7 of them he went the distance, and pitched all 9 innings. So in all 253 innings he pitched that season, Sabathia had a combined 2.70 ERA, 2.91 FIP, 1.115 WHIP, .7 homers, 2.1 walks, and 8.9 K’s per 9, to go with 10 complete games and 5 shutouts, which almost all the stats are full season career bests. The innings pitched is still an active player single season high. Sabathia ended up finishing in 5th place for NL Cy Young Voting, and it was the only time he finished in the top 10 of MVP voting at 6th place. Overall in his prime years, which I would consider from the 2006 season to the 2012 season, Sabathia had a 3.14 ERA, 3.20 FIP, and 1.162 WHIP, showing that he didn’t tg help him. That along with a decent 8.2 K per 9 rate, a 2.2 walk per 9 rate, and just .8 home runs per 9 in 1591 and two thirds innings in that 7 season period show that his prime years were some amazing years in recent history.
While Sabathia has more than enough reasons to get a Call To The Hall, there are some things that could prevent him from making it. The first, and most notable thing to point out is his career ERA, which is 3.69. While it isn’t a bad ERA at all, it doesn’t necessarily shout Hall Of Fame either. It ranks 271 of all time. His FIP is a similar situation as well. With a 3.71 FIP, he doesn’t even rank in the top 500 of MLB players, and he sits with Gene Conley tied for 573rd place. CC has also never been a big strikeout pitcher, indicated by his career 7.7 K per-9 ratio, and never having a full season where that rate reached above 8.9, or having back-to-back seasons with 200+ K’s. However, Sabathia isn’t the most control effective starter. He currently has a 2.7 walk per 9 rate, which ranks 461st all time. Another thing that hurts Sabathia’s case is, while he has been an effective pitcher for most of his career, there have been times when he wasn’t even a top 20 guy. For example, Sabathia, while he finished 2nd in Rookie Of The Year Voting, and made 2 all-star appearances between 2001 and 2005, Sabathia didn’t have a true ace level season until 2006 when he was 25. In that 5 season time period, the lefty had one year when he had an ERA below 4, and even then, it wasn’t amazing at 3.60 in 197 and two thirds innings. Overall, Sabathia pitched in 972.2 innings in the 2001 to 2005 seasons, and recorded a 4.10 ERA, 3.98 FIP, and a 1.317 WHIP. His perfierials also were not great either with a 3.5 walk per 9 rate, 9 strikeouts per 9, and a just 1.99 strikeout per walk rate. Sabathia also suffered a similar downturn between 2013 and 2016. In those 4 seasons, CC only had one season when his ERA reached a below 4 mark, with a 3.91 ERA in 179.2 innings in 2016. Sabathia also suffered a season ending injury early into th 2014 season, in which he pitched in 8 games. However, he didn’t pitch well in those 8 games, for he had a 5.28 ERA, 4.78 FIP, and career highs in his home runs per 9 innings rate at 2, and hits per 9 rate at 11.3 in 46 innings. While Sabathia also had a 9.4 K per 9 rate, and 2 walk per 9 rate that season, the bads really outweigh the goods. Overall between 2013 and 2016, CC recorded a lack luster 4.54 ERA, 4.36 FIP, 1.377 WHIP, along with a high 1.3 home runs per 9 rate. Sabathia also doesn’t have fantastic overall postseason numbers. Overall, CC has a 4.20 ERA, 4.64 FIP, and a high 1.528 WHIP in 126 and a third postseason innings. Notably, his postseason walk rate is 4.3. While they’re not Clayton Kershaw bad, they’re not Madison Bumgarner good.
Sabathia has had a very good career if you look at it. Sure his ERA and FIP numbers may not be the best, but his other numbers and feats, like his strikeout total which will likely reach 3000+ before the end of his career, and his recent rebound of going from has been starter to solid backend piece, you can see why he has a good chance of getting a call to The Hall. When everything is said and done, I do see Sabathia making it to Cooperstown, but probably not on his first 3 or 4 ballots. I’d predict CC makes it in on his 5th-8th ballot or later, but eventually, he will likely make The Hall.