C.C. Sabathia’s Injury Affects New York's World Series Odds

The veteran lefty’s career may be over after suffering this latest setback

Keith Allison, Flickr

  • C.C. Sabathia (knee) recently got sent to the IL and the rest of this season (and his career) are in jeopardy. 

  • With 23 postseason starts under his belt, Sabathia’s presence could be missed, especially in the later playoff rounds.

Sabathia’s Knee

C.C. Sabathia has had trouble staying healthy in his age-39 season, logging 100 1/3 innings over 20 starts. After admitting that his knee hit a 10 on the pain scale, Sabathia was removed from Friday’s contest with what is being called right knee inflammation.

This is sad news, as the illustrious career of one of the great competitors and future Hall of Fame inductees is now in question. Sabathia is a big man at 6’6” and weighing in at 300-plus pounds. His right knee has taken a beating over the years (his planting leg). We hope that Sabathia can make it back and contribute in the postseason, but what if he doesn’t make it back? This affects the New York Yankees chances, especially considering their starting rotation isn’t all that impressive.

Potential Playoff Arms

The Yankees weren’t depending on Sabathia to lead their rotation in the postseason, but they would have liked to lean on his dazzling playoff experience. The southpaw has 23 postseason starts under his belt in his career. It’s hard to have much knowledge of what that atmosphere entails unless you’ve been through it; even then, having success and gaining experience are two completely different aspects after the regular season.

Masahiro Tanaka is likely to lead the rotation come playoff time. He’s the most experienced on the club (with Sabathia out) with five playoff starts under his belt. Tanaka’s 1.50 ERA and 0.80 WHIP over 30.0 innings under the bright lights has been pretty remarkable. Tanaka is clearly the top option for the Yankees, despite struggling at times in the second half. 

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Coming in at the second rotational spot is James Paxton. The first-year Yankee has no postseason experience, but he appears to be quite serviceable. Paxton’s 29.2 percent strikeout rate and 4.21 FIP are solid, especially when considering the ballpark he pitches in. Sabathia’s presence could be missed behind Paxton in the third slot of the rotation.

Youngster Domingo German has enjoyed a breakout performance in the 2019 season, going 17-3 with a 4.03 ERA. However, his 4.83 FIP and 28 long-balls over 127 1/3 innings this season are brutal. His BABIP of .265 shows his good fortune, so expect that number to rise and regression to set in. There are many positives with German, but it’s hard to know what to expect from the second-year pitcher once the pressure of postseason ball comes into play.

Finally, we have J.A. Happ as a potential fourth starter for the Bronx Bombers. This is where the Yankees hurt the most if Sabathia can’t make it back in 2019. Happ was an unfortunate signing in the offseason for New York. His 5.57 ERA and 5.66 FIP are ugly, and so are the 32 round-trippers he has allowed over 134.0 innings this season. This is a disaster scenario for the Yankees and they pray for Luis Severino to make a return to bail them out, but how effective could Severino actually be after missing the entire 2019 season? There are too many question marks to feel comfortable, even with the best offense in the league.

Top Threats In The AL

The Houston Astros pose the biggest threat to New York. Their addition of Zack Greinke makes their starting rotation the best in baseball alongside Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Wade Miley. Greinke’s 11 playoff starts make him very desirable, not to mention he’s having a tremendous season overall. Verlander and Cole’s 30 combined post season appearances have to make them the favorite behind their excellent lineup.  

The Cleveland Indians could make quite a ruckus if they can maintain their playoff spot. They’re awaiting a return from Corey Kluber, who could likely be serving as a short starter, just like Luis Severino (assuming they both make it back). Carlos Carrasco is making his return, but he will be limited to bullpen duties as his arm is far from stretched out. Thankfully for Cleveland, they have had Shane Bieber (3.27 ERA) and Mike Clevinger (2.72 ERA) emerge as top-notch arms. If Kluber returns, then the Yankees could have their hands full.

The Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox are honorable mentions. They have the offensive firepower to hand with the Yankees, but they simply don’t have the starting rotations to do any damage. Chris Sale may not make a return this season, but he was awful when healthy. David Price can’t do it all. The Twins don’t have a ton behind ace Jose Berrios, either, making this feel more like a three-horse race in the AL.

New York’s Odds

On DraftKings, New York’s odds rank second in the AL behind the Houston Astros at +240 to make it to the World Series. Sabathia’s importance comes in this particular matchup with the favored Astros. The big southpaw could provide the wealth of experience needed to steal a game from the Houston club.

In the 2017 ALCS, Sabathia logged a 0.96 ERA over two starts against a similar Astros lineup. He won’t provide any long outings, but the confidence the club could feel behind him makes all the difference when going against the trio of Verlander, Cole, and Greinke.

DraftKings has the Yankees at +475 to win the World Series this season, ranking them with the third-highest odds. The Los Angeles Dodgers top NL offense certainly poses a threat, including their dominant lefties Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Walker Buehler has been great as advertised, making the Dodgers rotation more viable than the Yankees.

Losing Sabathia didn’t change the Yankees long-term chances by much in the sports book world, but they’ll notice the loss if they have to get through the Astros or Dodgers in the postseason. The Yankees certainly hope they’ll get their most experienced playoff arm back for one last hoorah as they make a push for another World Series title.

Note: Advanced statistics were found on FanGraphs. The advice above represents the writer's personal view and does not reflect or represent BetQL's stance or interest in any way.