Rough 3-Year Stretch Shouldn't Overshadow CC Sabathia's Outstanding Career

Heath Clary@hc3onthediamondCorrespondent IIIJune 8, 2015

New York Yankees' CC Sabathia pitches against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning of a baseball game Thursday, May 28, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

CC Sabathia had a solid start on Sunday, limiting the Los Angeles Angels to five hits and two runs in the New York Yankees' 6-2 victory.

These days, those positive performances have become few and far between for the 34-year-old left-hander. His ERA currently sits at an inflated 5.25, and the Yankees have lost seven of Sabathia's 12 starts.

But his recent struggles shouldn't overshadow how good of a career Sabathia has had. 

Not too long ago, he was one of the elite starting pitchers in the game, and arguably the most durable. He surpassed 200 innings pitched in eight consecutive seasons from 2007-2013, and he also led the American League in wins twice over that time.

Sabathia burst onto the national scene with the Cleveland Indians in 2007, when he won the AL Cy Young after recording a 19-7 record, a 3.21 ERA and a league-leading 241 innings pitched. His Indians advanced to the American League Championship Series that year, yet Sabathia struggled mightily in that series.

But Sabathia showed he could certainly pitch under pressure the very next year when he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in a midseason deal. What ensued was one of the most dominant stretches in recent memory. Sabathia pitched to the tune of a 1.65 ERA and a 11-2 record in 17 starts, including seven complete games and three shutouts.

He put the Brewers on his back and led them to their first postseason appearance in 26 years.

In his career, Sabathia has won a Cy Young Award and has been invited to six All-Star Games. 

On Sunday, he reached the 2,500-strikeout plateau, making him the 31st pitcherand just the ninth southpaw—in MLB history to reach that total. 

Arguably the best run of Sabathia's career came in his only National League experience, when he led Milwaukee to the postseason.
Arguably the best run of Sabathia's career came in his only National League experience, when he led Milwaukee to the postseason.Morry Gash/Associated Press/Associated Press

He isn't the 31st-best pitcher of all time, but lefty hurler has put together a very impressive resume nonetheless. He has over 200 victories, has started 435 career games and if he pitches another full year, he will likely have 3,000 innings pitched.

One of Sabathia's current teammates, third baseman Chase Headley, said it nicely after a recent game.

"Whatever you call him, the ace or not, he's a tremendous pitcher that has had more success than 99 percent of people that played this game," Headley told David Lennon of Newsday. "He's the type of guy you really want to play well for."

Sabathia's team-first attitude is also inspiring. Even after reaching the 2,500-strikeout milestone, he refused to acknowledge its importance.

"I've been around a long time," Sabathia said, per Alden Woods of MLB.com. "I always say, 'When I retire, I can look back and say that's a big deal.' But right now, I'm just in the middle of the season and trying to help this team win some games."

Manager Joe Girardi calls Sabathia "one of the toughest competitors I've ever been around," per Lennon.

So while it's easy to look at Sabathia and call him an overrated, washed-up pitcher—which may be an accurate description as of right now—he should be appreciated for all of the success he has had prior to these last three years.

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