Well, here we are, my top highlight of the 2008 season. In third place was Chipper Jones and his quest for a .400 batting average that kept us all entertained well into June, and second place involved everyone, including the notoriously tough Phillies fans really pulling for Junior Griffey to hit that 600th home run. First place, however, is a no-brainer for me, and goes to CC Sabathia’s absolutely incredible performance this season. And I’m not just talking about his statistics in a Brewers uniform, but while with the Indians as well.
CC started the season rather poorly, as after four games, his numbers were: 18 IP, 32 H, 27 ER, 14 BB, 14 K, an OPS of 1.170, and a 13.50 ERA. Over his next 14 starts, all with the Indians, Sabathia allowed just 25 earned runs, two less than his total in the initial four. He walked just 20 while striking out 109 and allowing only 85 hits in 104.1 innings. This resulted in a .591 OPS against and a 2.16 ERA. It is irresponsible and incorrect to ignore his atrocious first four starts, but he managed to put together a tremendous 14-start stretch before even landing a plane ticket to Milwaukee.
Following the trade with the Brewers, Sabathia had a somewhat wild first start in the senior circuit but followed it up with three straight complete games, one of which was a shutout. In these three starts, he amassed 27 innings, allowed just 15 hits and three earned runs, walked just three hitters and struck out 26 of them. All told, in 17 starts with the Brewers, he threw seven complete games, produced a K/BB ratio above 5.0 (128/25), and a 1.65 ERA.
Put together, he made 35 starts, threw 253 innings, walked 59, fanned 251, and surrendered 2.70 earned runs per nine innings. In case you are curious just how good he was following those four atrocious starts to begin the year–or just how bad those four starts were–here are his stats from starts #5-35: 235 IP, 191 H, 45 BB, 237 K, .570 OPS, 1.88 ERA, 5.27 K/BB, 2.45 FIP. Again, it is incorrect to ignore those starts, but this what Sabathia did from the end of April until the end of the season. He virtually willed the Brewers into the playoffs, and made four straight starts to close out the season on three days rest. His numbers in that span? 28.2 IP, 24 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 26 K, 1.88 ERA.
With the Brewers, he surrendered 4 ER just once, never venturing higher than that number. Three earned runs were allowed twice; Two earned runs on four occasions; 1 earned run six times; and no earned runs in four different starts. That is domination. His lowest game score was 43 and he produced a game score of 70+ in seven of 17 starts for the Brewers. I have never followed a pitcher, or watched each of his starts, for a team other than my own, except for Greg Maddux prior to this season. From the time Sabathia joined the Brewers, though, I found myself tuning into each and every one of his starts, growing more and more impressed with each passing pitch. His tremendous season, especially with Milwaukee, is my top highlight of the 2008 season.