Monday, July 7, 2008 | By Alex Eisenberg
*Updated on 12/10
C.C. Sabathia has officically decided to sign with the New York Yankees for the largest contract ever given to a major league pitcher. If there is any pitcher that's worth it, it's Sabathia. The scouting report belows still applies, but he showed his heart and dedication by putting the entire Brewers organization on his back and into the playoffs. Of course, his remarkable second half run last year ended up adding a ton of miles in terms of innings and pitches to his arm.
Sabathia has the look of a pitcher that can withstand injury. He's big (pitchers with a little more room around the waist are less injury prone than "skinny" pitchers), he's athletic, he repeats his mechanics well, but injury is unavoidable in most pitchers and eventually they ware down. Nothing in Sabathia's performance last year indicated a pitcher that was waring down. However, his signing does carry risk because injuries in pitchers are generally unpredictable and the pounding his arm took last year only heightens those risks. It's also unrealistic to expect Sabathia to stay healthy the entire length of his contract though really, the point of signing him is to win a World Series in the first three or four years of his contract.
With all that said, he's been healthy his entire career, he's one of the best pitchers in the games, the Yankees have the money, and he makes them a World Series contender instantly if they weren't already. The Yankees want to win now....and they've acquired the best pitcher to make that happen.
The Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers just completed a blockbuster trade which will send C.C. Sabathia to Milwaukee and Matt LaPorta, Robert Bryson, Zach Jackson, and Michael Brantley to Cleveland. This article will breakdown the players involved....
To skip over Sabathia's section and read the portion dedicated to Matt LaPorta and the others, please click here
Sabathia is the headliner name in this deal and is the reigning Cy Young winner and a legit No. 1 starter.
By the Numbers
Sabathia has very strong peripherals, sporting the best K% of his career at the moment (24.3%) and plus control though the walks are up somewhat this year (3.8% to 6.7%).
The weak spot for Sabathia is a HR-rate which is up to .96, tied for the highest rate of his career. The HR:FB% is also tied for the highest of his career (10.6%). Given his other peripherals, this isn't something to worry about.
Sabathia has a three-pitch arsenal:
Fastball - his fastball sits between 92 and 96, but his velocity has improved as the weather has heated up and now is hitting 95 and 96 with much more regularity. When he's on, Sabathia has excellent command of the pitch to both sides of the plate and it can be difficult to pick up because the batters must protect against Sabathia's other plus pitch.
Slider - Sabathia's other plus pitch is his slider. His slider takes a sweeping action across the plate and can have varying degrees of break. The pitch is incredibly tough on left handed hitters, but Sabathia also has the ability to throw it down and in to right handers. His slider is thrown anywhere between 80 - 84 mph.
Change-up - used almost exclusively against right handers, Sabathia's change-up has pretty good fading action and is thrown in the mid-80's. The command of the pitch isn't quite as good as the fastball or slider, but the pitch still profiles as above average.
Consistency is key. Sabathia, despite his size, is a very good athlete, which allows him to repeat his delivery very well.
Sabathia breaks his hands early, but simply tucks his arm behind his body before loading the arm horizontally. Just before the arm begins to load up, Sabathia kick-starts an aggressive hip rotation by using what is called a step-over move because it looks like he is stepping over an imaginary object. You can see this below and I slow down the key sequence of this step-over:
This move contributes to the high velocity Sabathia throws with. In addition, he times this move very well with the loading of his arm. At foot plant, the upper body is ready to be uncoiled forward, bringing the arm with it.
As much as people worry about Sabathia's weight, there have been studies that show pitchers on the heavy side are more likely to remain healthy over their skinnier counterparts. This likely has to do with their bigger bodies being able to handle the stress and pounding pitching takes on a player's body.
LaPorta was drafted with the 7th pick of the 2007 draft out of the University of Florida.
By the Numbers
Statistically speaking, LaPorta is about as good as you could ask. He hits for power, he gets on base, and he hits line drives and fly balls.
He doesn't hit for all that good an average, but that may be a result of the number of fly balls he hits since ground balls are more likely to become hits. However, batting average isn't all that important when your ISO-power is .288 and you're getting on base 40% of the time.
Strikeouts can be a concern for LaPorta but he has lowered his K% from 21.4 to 17 this year. As far as power hitters are concerned, that number is perfectly fine.
LaPorta has a classic power hitter's swing. He does a great job of carrying his weight forward forward. Notice how the bat stays connected to the body as he loads his hands by moving his elbow almost behind his back similar to the way a pitcher loads their arm horizontally.
The hips and hands turn together and he uses his firm front leg as a base in which to turn on. His turn through the ball is especially forceful. LaPorta also lets the ball travel relatively deep in his hitting zone though he could stand to let it travel a little deeper.
LaPorta will be limited defensively to one of the corner outfield spots or first base. It's obviously not his defense in which the Indians are getting LaPorta for.
If anybody has any concerns about the LaPorta possibly feasting on left handed pitching while being merely average vs. right handed pitchers, your fears should be put to rest as he has a 1.021 OPS vs. right handed pitchers this year.
8.5 Upside, Low-Average Probability
7 Mid-Level, Average Probability
6 Downside, Low Probability
*For an explanation of my grading system, click here
Bryson was a 31st round pick in 2006 and thus far he has really carved out a niche for himself as a multi-inning reliever in the low minors. His peripheral stats are extremely impressive; a K% of 31.5% in both of his minor league seasons to go along with pretty good control and decent command.
To be honest, there isn't a whole lot of information out there on Bryson, which makes him an excellent sleeper candidate given his age and numbers. Bryson has made four starts this year, but looking at his splits, he appears to be much better out of the bullpen. However, he does have the ability to get out both right and left-handed hitters.
Keith Law says Bryson has a "potentially plus fastball/slider combo and misses a ton of bats already with both pitches" and Baseball America named Bryson their 8th best prospect in the Pioneer League last year.
A former first round pick, Jackson has struggled mightily this season: easy to hit, high HR-rate, and a lack of strikeouts. His control has been pretty solid and he does generate a moderate amount of ground balls, but Jackson is mostly just a throw-in.
For the Brewers
Getting Sabathia gives the Brewers an extremely talented rotation, especially at the front end as he will be pairing with another top-flight pitcher in Ben Sheets. I don't think there is any question Sabathia significantly improves the Brewer's playoff chances and once there, the acquisition of Sabathia would pay even bigger dividends since you could have Sabathia and Sheets start three games between them and then put the pitcher that started just one game in the bullpen if the series is extended.
However, history tells us when an ace pitcher is dealt, the team that deals the pitcher is more often than not the ultimate winners of that deal with a couple exceptions.
With that said, the Brewers are dealing from a position of strength. The Brewers will also have a head start in terms of signing Sabathia over the offseason. And while LaPorta looks like he will have a long and successful major league career and Bryson looks like a potential closer, the talent and upside of this trade I'm not sure approaches that of other past trades made for ace pitchers. Of course, we'll have to see who the PTBN is.
For the Indians
The Indians had to make this deal. The only reason for holding out would be if they felt another team would come along and beat the Brewers' offer and that's a risky game to play. The value the Indians are getting out of this is trade is more than they would get from a couple of high draft choices if Sabathia were to leave after this season.
LaPorta will be added to an intriguing and talented mix of corner infielders including Nick Weglarz, Beau Mills, and Wes Hodges. Whether the Indians plan to go into full-out rebuilding mode remains to be seen, but there is a nice base of players in which to build upon.
This is a trade that really should be looked at as a draw. Both teams got what they wanted and the trade simply makes sense given the situations each team finds themselves in.