Russell: CC Is Making A Good Case For Cooperstown

Thirty-seven year old CC Sabathia has now made three excellent starts in a row. The lefty threw six shutout innings, allowing only three hits and striking out seven, although he had to settle for a no-decision in the Yankees 7-6 win over the Indians on Friday night in the Bronx.

“Cutter was good, we used the changeup a lot,” Sabathia said. “Gary called a good game.”

Aaron Boone added, “He really knows how to pitch with what he has now. The cutter, slider, changeup combination. He knows what the heck he’s doing out there. I think he’s really comfortable, I think he has a really good game plan going in there and he pitches with a lot of confidence that he’s going to execute it. And again, it’s the ability for such a big guy, his athleticism to repeat his delivery allows him to command the ball how we wants time and time again, and it seems like he’s getting better and better.”

While Sabathia is helping this team, let’s step back and take a look at his Hall of Fame credentials. Even after the bullpen blew a five-run lead and cost him a win, after Friday’s performance, Sabathia has 239 wins and 2,869 strikeouts. He doesn’t rack up the strikeouts like he once did, so he would likely reach the 3,000 strikeout plateau during the 2019 season.

The only pitchers with 3,000 strikeouts not enshrined in Cooperstown are Roger Clemens (because of steroid allegations) and Curt Schilling (partially because of his sour relationship with writers).

The only southpaws with more strikeouts are Randy Johnson and Steve Carlton, and Sabathia has the most for an AL pitcher. And he’s made all but 17 of his 515 starts in the American League, meaning he’s not getting the extra 25 or 30 strikeouts a National League pitcher can pile up from facing the opposing pitcher.

Sabathia, a six-time All-Star, also won the AL Cy Young award in 2007. With the exception of Clemens, no pitcher with as many wins as Sabathia and a Cy Young on the resume has failed to get into the Hall of Fame.

In 2008, Sabathia was traded from Cleveland to Milwaukee and wound up leading both leagues in shutouts. Sabathia finished fifth in NL Cy Young voting and sixth in the MVP voting despite just pitching in 17 games with the Brewers. The team knew they wouldn’t re-sign him after the season, so they put him to good use. He went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA, completing seven of his starts and throwing three shutouts as he pitched Milwaukee into the playoffs.

Sabathia won 59 games over his first three seasons as a Yankee, finishing third in the Cy Young voting once, and fourth on two other occasions.

He has thrown 38 complete games in his career, with the late Roy Halladay being the only contemporary pitcher with more. And Bartolo Colon, who started pitching several years before Sabathia, is the only active player with more innings pitched.

With 300 game winners seemingly a thing of the past, and specialized bullpens relieving starters earlier in games, the workhorse Sabathia is one of the last of a dying breed. And his resume looks impressive enough to land him in Cooperstown.

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