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A Big 2019 Could Mean Cooperstown for Sabathia

After announcing that he will finish his career with Yankees in 2019, CC Sabathia has given himself one more season to improve his Cooperstown résumé.

On June 2nd, 1998, a flame-throwing LHP named Carsten Charles(CC) Sabathia Jr. was selected by the Cleveland Indians as the 20th overall pick in the MLB Draft.

Ten years later, Sabathia would become, at the time, the highest paid pitcher in the history of the game by signing a seven-year, $161 million contract with the Yankees. In his first year in pinstripes, Sabathia led the team to their first world championship in 9 years, and picked up an ALCS MVP award along the way.

Now, after signing a one-year deal to finish his career in the Bronx, Sabathia is chasing something that would make him baseball royalty: A plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Sabathia’s statistics speak for themselves, but are they enough to get 75% of the BBWAA to vote him in? Let’s take a look.

The Basics

Currently, over Sabathia’s 18-year-career, he has spent seven and half seasons with the Indians, 1/2 with the Brewers and 10 with Yankees. Throughout his tenure he has racked up some of the best numbers by a left-handed pitcher in the history of the game:

Wins: 246 (13th all-time among LHP, tied for 51st all-time)

Innings Pitched: 3,470.0 (19th all-time among LHP, 75th all-time)

Strikeouts: 2,986 (3rd all-time among LHP, 17th all-time)

Games Started: 538 (11th all-time among LHP, tied for 36th all-time)

Sabathia’s career ERA of 3.70 seems to be a bit high, but you must factor in the fact that he has pitched 10 years within the AL East, where almost every ballpark is considered to favor the hitters. Sabathia also earned six All-Star game appearances (2003, 2007, 2010-2012) and was awarded the AL Cy Young Award in 2007 with the Indians. With one more season left on the table, Sabathia will most likely finish his career with 550+ games started, 3,000+ strikeouts, 3,500+ innings pitched and 250+ wins.

Ace

If there is one thing that Sabathia will be remembered for the most it will be his ability to put his team on his back down the stretch and into the postseason.

In 2008, Sabathia was traded mid-season from the Indians to the Milwaukee Brewers for “star prospect” 1B Matt Laporta, RHP Rob Bryson, outfielder Michael Brantley and LHP Zach Jackson. Many people around baseball believe this may have been the best mid-season trade in history, and they might have a point.

In the 17 starts, he made after the trade, Sabathia posted a 1.65 ERA over 130.2 innings, while also recording 128 strikeouts. He also tossed seven complete games in that span with three of them being shutouts. During the playoff push, Sabathia often volunteered to pitch on just three days rest to ensure that his team would not fall short of the playoffs. By the end of his historic run, the Brewers had reached the postseason for just the third time in franchise history and for the first time since 1982.

When Sabathia joined the Yankees, he turned himself into the one guy that the most successful franchise in baseball wanted on the mound in a must-win game. In 2009, CC sent the Yankees to the World Series in style by winning ALCS MVP, posting a 1.13 ERA in two starts.

More recently, the Yankees found themselves on the verge of completing an unbelievable comeback in the 2017 ALDS after tying the series at two games apiece. The Yankees turned to CC on the road in Cleveland in a winner-take-all Game 5. With some help from Didi Gregorius, Sabathia held the Indians down long enough for the Yankees to complete the reverse sweep and advance to the ALCS (Where he posted a 0.96 ERA in two starts).

The HOF Metric

As most baseball fans know, the game of baseball has become a game influenced on all kinds of analytics. One specific metric has been the one that many use to determine who some of the best players in the history of the game are: WAR.

WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is a single number that determines how many more wins a player is worth than a replacement player at the same position.

Through 2018, Sabathia has a WAR of 62.2. That sits him at 9th all-time among LHP and 51st all-time among all pitchers. Every left-handed pitcher, but one (Tommy John), ahead of Sabathia in WAR has a plaque in Cooperstown.

Another interesting thing about WAR, Sabathia’s 62.2 WAR is higher than HOF pitchers such as Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax and Hal Newhouser.

It is safe to say that CC’s numbers can keep up with the best of them, and he even still has a year to improve them.

2019

This upcoming season is going to be a very important one for Sabathia if he wants the BBWAA voters to put him on their ballots in 2024.

This year CC will have the chance to surpass 3,000 strikeouts, 300 wins, 3,500 innings and 550 games started. Sabathia will also have the chance to catch Tommy John in WAR (Sabathia 62.2, John 62.5).

One thing that is not as important as the previously mentioned stats is the possibility of winning another championship. Although he does not necessarily need another ring for him to be elected, it doesn’t hurt. Adding another World Series title would just add his name to the list of multiple time champions and would just be another reason to consider voting for him.

Next: Yankees would be crazy to trade Gary Sanchez for J.T. Realmuto

The better a season Sabathia has, the better his chances get for joining the Hall. Sabathia may not be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but there is no reason why he should not end up getting a plaque in Cooperstown.

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