Yes, Sabathia turns 34 this year.

Yes, he is 1-2 with a 6.63 ERA.

Yes, his velocity is still down and it’s never coming back to where was a couple years ago.

Yes, he had a terrible 2013 season.

But you know what, I don’t care. Sabathia will be fine, and here’s why:

1. It’s April.

ERA over the first three starts of a season is not something to concern yourself with. This is certainly true for Sabathia. CC’s career ERA in April is 4.17, compared to his career ERA of 3.62.

In 2012, he finished April with a 4.58 ERA, but wound up finishing the season with a 3.38 ERA. This is a man with a well-established reputation as a slow starter. Like most brown bears, it takes him a little while to shake off the effects of hibernation.

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From NoMaas 2010

Whether this is actually predictive or just a remnant of statistical variance, let it serve as a reminder that Sabathia is very capable of rebounding from a poor April ERA.

Sabathia’s velocity is a real concern. His average fastball fell from 92.4 in 2012 to 91.3 in 2013. Early on this year, it sits at an alarming 89.8. If it stays that way all year, Sabathia may struggle to be above-average. However, his fastball is similarly plodding to 2013. It rebounded after April and steadily climbed to a serviceable level into the summer.

2. A pitcher’s job is to get strikeouts, avoid walks, and keep the ball on the ground.

These are the three things that a pitcher directly impacts the most, and Sabathia is doing all three expertly.

He is striking out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings, walking only 1.4 per 9, and getting groundballs on 56% of his balls in play. There are only a small handful of starters who are doing better in all three categories (Tanaka being one of them). His 2.41 xFIP say he’s already doing what he needs to do to be successful.

3. Pitchers have little control over variation in their BABIP, LOB%, and HR/FB.

When a pitcher’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play), LOB% (percent of baserunners left stranded), and HR/FB (home runs per fly ball) rates deviate significantly from the league average in a small sample of innings, you can bet on them regressing back towards that average over the long run.

The average number for those metrics are about .300, 70%, and 10%. Sabathia has a normal BABIP at .308. However, he has managed to strand only 58% of the base runners he’s allowed. That in turn is largely thanks to a ridiculous small sample size HR/FB rate of 39%. Yankee Stadium is a tough place to keep the ball in the park, but you can safely say that anything over a 12% HR/FB is just not going to last very long.

Summary:

Sabathia’s age and drop in velocity is meaningful. We shouldn’t expect him to put up the innings and ERA from his incredible 2006-2012 run. But, his skills show that he’s not that far off. As pitchers age, they all lose velocity. Yet, great pitchers like C.C. can learn to pitch without blowing the heater by a hitter.  Sabathia is going to be a comfortably better-than-average pitcher the rest of the way.