If two is a coincidence and three is a trend, what is five? Five could be a serious concern for CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees. The past five innings leaders for World Series-winning teams have struggled and/or missed time due to injury the following season.
Innings Leaders Of World Series-Winning Teams Since 2004
2004 Curt Schilling
Schilling finished second in American League Cy Young voting in 2004 with a 21-8 record and 3.26 ERA in 226 2/3 innings. He went 3-1 in 22 2/3 more innings in an epic postseason that included the most memorable sock in baseball history. In 2005, Schilling started the season on the DL with pain in his right ankle. He was back on the DL from April to July with a bone bruise on that same right ankle -- but a little higher on the leg than where he had surgery. He finished the season 8-8 with a 5.69 ERA.
2005 Mark Buehrle
Buehrle led the AL in innings in 2004 and 2005 but pitched an extra 23 1/3 innings in 2005 while helping the Chicago White Sox on their World Series run. In 2006, Buehrle admitted that a back problem bothered him during the course of the season but insisted that pain never affected him on the mound. He made 32 starts that season but finished below .500 for the only time in his career and had a career-worst 4.99 ERA.
2006 Chris Carpenter
A year after winning the National League Cy Young, Carpenter led the St. Louis Cardinals to their first World Series title since 1982. He went 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA in the postseason but pitched 254 innings from April to October. In 2007 and 2008, he appeared in just five games due to shoulder, triceps and elbow problems -- including undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2007.
2007 Josh Beckett
Beckett went 20-7 in 2007 before going 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA in the postseason. He pitched a combined 230 2/3 innings, the most of his professional career. He had a second World Series ring and the ALCS MVP trophy for his efforts, but the October overtime showed in 2008. He started the season on the DL with back problems and was sidelined again in August with elbow issues. He went 12-10 with a 4.03 ERA.
2008 Cole Hamels
Hamels went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in the postseason on his way to capturing the NLCS and World Series MVP awards. He pitched 262 1/3 innings between the regular and postseason, 72 1/3 innings more than his previous career high. In 2009, Hamels missed starting on Opening Day due to inflammation in his left elbow, finished below .500 for the first time in his career (10-11) and had a career-worst 4.32 ERA. He also was unable to turn it on in the postseason, going 1-2 with a 7.58 ERA in four postseason starts.
2009 CC Sabathia
Sabathia went 19-8 with a 3.37 ERA in his first season with the Yankees. He also overcame previous postseason failures by going 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in five postseason starts, but he pitched a career-high 266 1/3 innings in the regular and postseason. One could argue that if anyone could handle the extra work it is Sabathia, who pitched just more than 256 innings each of his previous two seasons, but he never pitched so deep into the calendar before. A workhorse like Sabathia versus a streak with a track record like this will be something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.