When the New York Yankees took the field against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Monday, they did so burdened with the knowledge that they were facing a decided disadvantage in the starting pitching match-up. Whenever it is Yankees starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia’s turn to toe the rubber at the start of a contest, getting inferior pitching relative to his counterpart is the unavoidable result. And the difference was particularly stark during Monday’s contest as the Angels were able to call upon the services of fellow left-handed hurler C.J. Wilson, who was coming off an awful outing, but has still been exponentially better than Sabathia this season. Knowing that they were already severely hampered by their own player, the Yankees had to hope that their superior offensive capabilities would nullify the poor pitching they were likely to receive from Sabathia. Unfortunately for the Yankees, that hope remained unrealized as their hitting did not live up to its reputation, and instead helped the Yankees to a 4-1 defeat to the Angels.
Sabathia was not an unmitigated disaster on the mound during the contest; compared to how he has pitched for most of the campaign, he actually delivered a pretty remarkably proficient outing. Of course, what qualifies as a proficient outing for Sabathia these days is a far cry from what one would consider to be an outing that will actually position a team close to victory. Sabathia might have out-pitched his abysmal season statistics on Monday, but that did not mean he was completely immune to the same issues that have weakened his pitching effectiveness all season. He just happened to be slightly less affected by them.
Still, the problems that Sabathia suffers through almost every time that he takes the mound were on full display, even against a team that has been just a middle-of-the-pack club in terms of creating runs. Against Sabathia, though, even an unimpressive hitting club receives a boost to their productivity because of the meager pitches that Sabathia serves up to be clubbed so the Angels were able to look like a better offensive squad than they really are. Over the course of the 7.3 innings Sabathia worked, the Angels touched Sabathia up for six hits and drew one walk in 29 plate appearances. The ratio of Angels hitters who reached base to overall plate appearances was pretty poor for the Angels, indicating that Sabathia was able to achieve a respectable level of success against his opponent, but there is usually a but when discussing any start by Sabathia.
And the but in this case had to do with the quality of the hits that were given up and also with what Sabathia was unable to do whenever those runners reached base. Those who have followed Sabathia’s season closely can probably already guess what form at least one of those hits took. Sabathia’s penchant for conceding home runs is already starting to become legendary, and he added to that epic tale on Monday by allowing two solo home runs, one to Mike Trout and the other to C.J. Cron. And as for the other five base runners that Sabathia allowed, two of them came around to score.
Four runs were charged to Sabathia’s account on Monday, and taking into account the Yankees’ lackluster approach to mounting an offense, those four runs were four runs too many. Barely even bothering to provide any run support to Sabathia — probably figuring what was the point since Sabathia is always likely to negate run support by surrendering a multitude of runs — the Yankees mustered up just one run, despite the fact they were near-equal to the Angels when it came to overall hitting; the Angels’ .308 wOBA for the contest barely nudged past the Yankees’ .305 wOBA.
The Yankees’ disappointing turn when it came to translating more of those productive plate appearances into runs came as a result of their inability to get the critical run-producing hit that would have allowed them to maximize their output. For the game, the Yankees had 13 plate appearances with runners in scoring position and only got one hit and two walks out of those favorable run expectancy states. The hit produced a run; the walks did not. The Yankees had multiple opportunities to push across more runs, but wasted most of them and found themselves saddled with a -3.05 RE24. If they had lived up to their run expectancy states, the game would have been much more competitive and maybe the club would not have found itself suffering a loss.
Neither the pitching nor the hitting the Yankees received met the threshold for what it would have taken the Yankees to win, and there is certainly blame to be shared among most of the players who suited up and saw action for the Yankees on Monday. And not only did the Yankees suffer a loss in a game that should have been much more competitive, they also blew a perfect opportunity to make up some ground on their division rivals. Instead, the Yankees are stuck in the same spot they were before Monday: a half-game behind the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles.