March 12, 2010
No one loves a good New York-Philly throwdown as much as we do, and with that in mind we're putting a couple of aces under the microscope today. When it's time to write a check for the No. 1 guy in the rotation, who's more interesting to you, Roy Halladay(notes) or CC Sabathia(notes)?
Special word/pound rules were devised for this debate: Scott Pianowski will be limited to 230 or so for his Halladay opener, but Brad Evans will get around 290 words to defend Sabathia. After you've read both sides, please weigh in with a vote and a comment.
Pianow to Open: I don't mind getting the shorter word count in this debate because the Halladay case is logical and obvious. And the only thing that's going to keep the poll competitive is the scores of Yankees fans around the globe.
Halladay was a better pitcher than Sabathia last year – lower ERA, lower WHIP, more strikeouts. Halladay did finish two wins behind Sabathia, but Doc should even the score now that he's with the two-time defending NL champs. Yes, it's a little silly to chase wins, but if you have to do so, start with a winning team. Halladay won't miss the mediocre Toronto club (75 victories), and he won't miss pitching against the Yankees and Red Sox, either.
The difference in leagues (and divisions) makes Halladay a slam dunk. In the American League, teams use the DH and play for the big inning. In the National League, punchless pitchers try to hit and teams play small ball on a regular basis. The NL environment was a boost to Cliff Lee(notes) last year, and it bailed out John Smoltz(notes) and Brad Penny(notes). Ask Sabathia about the easier assignment – the NL couldn't touch him during his Milwaukee stint in 2008 (1.65 ERA, 1.00 WHIP).
If people want to swim against the offensive tide of the AL East, be my guest. I'm putting my pitchers in the best place to dominate, and that's the NL. Clear off some mantle space, Doc.
Noise to Close: It's only appropriate in this weighty issue to support the side of a player whose Cs stand for Captain Cheeseburger. If the Noise didn't, outspoken Yankees fans would likely place a sizable bounty on his head.
Sabathia is without question one of the most dominant pitchers in the game today. In his inaugural season in Pinstripes, the hefty lefty was worth every bit of his bank-breaking $161 million contract, accumulating 19 wins, a 3.37 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 7.71 K/9 over 230 innings – his third straight 200-plus innings campaign. A slight uptick in wins is possible considering the Yankees' prodigious offense averaged 5.6 runs per game last year, the most in baseball. For the most part, fanatics should expect the southpaw to be the object of four-cat consistency, even in the hitter-friendly atmosphere of Yankees Stadium. Keep in mind, CC was actually better at home (3.17 ERA) than away (3.53 ERA) in 2009. He also owned lefties (.198 BAA), preventing them from reaching the short porch in right.
Unmistakably, Halladay is a brilliant hurler. His sound across-the-board production over the past four seasons has made him a mainstay in the elite tier. However, his transition from the AL to NL East, which normally skews forecasts for most pitchers positively, may not be as smooth as most think. Citizen Bank Park is more of a hitter's haven than the Rogers Center. It's possible his ERA could climb above 3.00, settling close to Sabathia's by year's end, especially if his 10.6 HR/FB% from a season ago carries over.
Ultimately, we're splitting hairs. Both pitchers are worthy rotation anchors. But for the Noise, ordering an extra slice of American is the sage move.