July 18, 2019

C.C. Sabathia Nears 3,000 Strikeouts in a Triumph of Reinvention

C.C. Sabathia Nears 3,000 Strikeouts in a Triumph of Reinvention

A 300th victory is out of reach for Sabathia — he turns 39 in July and will retire after this season — and maybe for anyone else, because of the decline in starters’ workloads. In 2001, Sabathia’s rookie season, nine major league pitchers worked at least 230 innings, a figure Sabathia would reach five times. Yet no pitcher has done it in the last two years.

Sabathia had an angioplasty and right knee surgery in the off-season, but if his health holds up, he should soon reach 250 victories. The win is a flawed statistic for measuring a pitcher’s performance, but, over time, a big pile of them still means that a pitcher has been durable and contributed to a lot of team success.

Here is the list of pitchers Sabathia would join with 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts: Walter Johnson, Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Steve Carlton, Don Sutton, Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Tom Seaver, Randy Johnson, Bert Blyleven, Fergie Jenkins and Bob Gibson. All are Hall of Famers except Clemens, whose ties to performance-enhancing drugs complicate his candidacy.

That list omits several big winners who led their league in strikeouts multiple times but finished short of 3,000, including Cy Young, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Christy Mathewson, Warren Spahn, Lefty Grove, Bob Feller and more.

For context, strikeout rates did not reach four per game until 1952, and they have risen each season since 2006, to 8.48 per game last season. Sabathia has never led the league in strikeouts, but he was an intimidator from the start.

“The first time I faced him in Cinergy Field in Cincinnati, he was a rookie for Cleveland and he struck me out three times,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said. “I fell down the third time swinging, and I was like, who is this guy?”

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