Is CC really back into shape?

Figuring out how to rediscover his pre-2013 mojo has been CC Sabathia‘s greatest challenge the past two seasons. It was jarring to see his performance take such a tumble from his first four seasons in pinstripes, so naturally, there were attempts to understand why it happened so suddenly. Of the plethora of reasons used to explain way Sabathia’s struggles, his weight became one of the most bantered about topics. This wasn’t the typical concern about a player’s fitness, though. Rather than complaining about a player being out of shape, the discussion was if a trimmed down Sabathia was one of the causes of his downfall.

During the 2013 season, one scout opined that CC’s weight loss hampered his delivery:

The weight loss has created a balance problem for him. He’s all over the place. He’s learning how to pitch in that body, a body he’s really never had. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him other than that. Sometimes you pitch at a certain weight all your life and then someone has the brilliant idea that you should lose weight because it’s putting stress on your knees, you do it, and then you’re dealing with something else.

This year, Sabathia checked into Spring Training at 305 pounds, which is roughly 30 pounds heavier than he was about a year ago. Here’s what the lefty had to say about it:

I lost a bunch of weight drastically, pretty quick, two years ago, and kinda was off-balance, and didn’t know really how my body was working,” he said. “So just talking to [team doctor Christopher] Ahmad, and to the trainers, I feel like this is a good weight. I feel a little stronger. I feel my legs under me, being a lot stronger, and being able to push off the mound.

Clearly, CC has bought in to the notion that his weight affected his performance. Hopefully he’s right. There was certainly a correlation between CC’s weight loss and results, but as we all know, correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation. Maybe his weight loss resulted in diminished velocity or threw off his command, but who knows?

The fact is that none of us really know what Sabathia’s weight means for his 2015. Sure, it would be easy to make a post hoc argument crediting his fitness (or lack their of) if he succeeds in 2015. Doing so would be a bit of a lazy conclusion, though. If he struggles again, his size would be long forgotten. Thus, I’m not any more optimistic about Sabathia’s upcoming season than I was before I heard about his added bulk. The truth is that he’s a 34 year-old with a massive career workload and a faulty knee, so it’s hard to expect any improvement going forward.

Even though I’m a bit skeptical about anything changing due to Sabathia’s size, I think there is something to be said about him being comfortable in his own body. If CC feels stronger and that this will get his mechanics back in order, then it’s hard to blame him for giving this shot. I’m sure he’s been provided a million suggestions in the last two seasons, but the fact of the matter is that there isn’t much any player can do to slow down the aging process. So if Sabathia’s content with his approach and believes he’s at the right weight, then it’s difficult to say that another strategy is preferable.

Once more, odds are that Sabathia will never be the guy he once was. But if he can show some semblance of his former self while staying healthy, it would be a huge boost to the Yankees’ question-filled rotation. If he feels that the re-added weight will increase the odds of that happening, then more power to him. I just don’t buy into it given the circumstances, particularly the typical pitcher aging curve.

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