When C.C. Sabathia first accepted the offer to join the New York Yankees, I remember someone on ESPN saying that C.C's well on his way to the Hall of Fame. Well, that made me think some. Don't we have a southpaw that has put up some impressive numbers with his time in the league as well? Let's take a look at Mark Buehrle compared to C.C. Sabathia and just figure out who is indeed the better pitcher.
What kind of comparisons can be drawn from Buehrle and Sabathia from looking at both pitchers' stats? They are both coming off their eighth full season in the big leagues (Buehrle's ninth year...rookie reliever in 2000). Buehrle has started 14 more games than Sabathia and sports 5 more wins in his career as well as 14 more losses. Both ERAs are in the same ballpark with Sabathia's being slightly better. Looking at other stats, Buehrle looks better in some and Sabathia in other (for obvious reasons). Both of these lefties have put up double digits in the wins category every season as a full starter. Of course Sabathia dominates in the strikeouts category and hits given up as well, but I'll get into that later.
Mark Buehrle, as we all know, has never been one to blow a hitter away. He has always been the guy who can scatter 10 hits over 7 innings and give up only a run. Well, I can't say always because there are the times where he gets on a roll and gives up 4+ runs each time out. Burls has five pitches in his arsenal but only loses his slider sparingly. He mainly uses a fastball, cutter, and change while mixing in a curve. Looking at his fangraphs page, Buehrle relied on his cutter more than the change this year which goes against what he's done in past seasons. Apart from 2006, we pretty much know what we're getting from Mark Buehrle. In 2006, he sported a very unimpressing 4.99 ERA (some of which if I recall were bad luck streaks of hits falling, but for the most part he had a down year). Other than that little hiccup, his highest season ERA has been 4.14. Also, Mark has thrown no less than 204 innings every year since 2001. He's turning 30 this March, and I believe he can only improve on what he's already accomplished. In my opinion, he is the modern day Mike Mussina or perhaps even a lesser known Greg Maddux. If he can continue to take velocity off his pitches to create more movement, more success will be right around the corner. He's averaged roughly 15 wins a year in his career, so if you take that over say 12 more seasons that will put him at 302 wins for his career. This would be quite the accomplishment for a guy that was cut from his high school team at one point.
C.C. Sabathia, on the other hand, is more of a power pitcher. He can dial it up in the upper 90s and get a key strikeout if needed. Sabathia is essentially a 3 pitch pitcher, using a fastball, slider and change. This year he used a curveball .1% of the time, according to his fangraphs page. Taking a look at his track record, he is essentially in the same ballpark with Buehrle in every category. Is he really worth the amount of money he was given? Yes, no, maybe? Sure, he dominated the National League circuit in his short time there this year, but can he bring that dominance back to the AL? He was Mark Buehrle with more strikeouts in his time with the Indians in 2008. C.C. has thrown close to 500 innings the past two seasons as he's entered his prime. Like Buehrle, I believe he can only get better with time. In my opinion, he now has everything going in his favor with today's signing of Mark Teixeira. A huge offense with the likes of A-Rod, Tex, and Nick Swisher (hahahahha) what isn't to love? Barring any injury setbacks, he should average about 235-250 innings and 18 wins over his next few years before he hits a small wall and has to learn how to drop velocity to get more movement like Buehrle. He will be 29 next year and say he averages the same amount of wins Mark does over 13 more seasons; C.C. will be over 310 wins. Let's just say when it's all said and done, Sabathia should have a win for every pound he weighs.
So, who in fact is the better pitcher. To be completely honest, I would say they are even. That's my opinion and from what I've seen, I would take either one of them to throw a game with the season hanging in the balance. Sabathia has the clear edge in head to head battles (couldn't find the stats but at the start of the 2008 year...Buehrle was 0-2 with a touch below 7 ERA in his last 4 starts against him). Buehrle's got the great fielding ability and pickoff move and C.C. has the firepower to get that much needed strikeout with ducks on the pond and nobody out. I will project C.C.'s ERA to take a jump this year with him being in the AL East. Here are my projections for both of them this upcoming season.
Mark Buehrle---(18-12) 34 GS, 229 IP, 3.71 ERA, 5 CG, 1 shutout
C.C. Sabathia---(19-11) 35 GS, 244 IP, 3.63 ERA, 8 CG, 2 shutouts