Why Cliff Lee Is Having a Season To Remember
While most of the media attention is going towards Ubaldo Jimenez’s quest for 25 wins and Josh Johnson’s goal of a sub-2 ERA, everyone is overlooking the historic year Cliff Lee is having.
Lee’s season is easy to overlook, especially in the “Year of the Pitcher.” The lefty only has 10 wins, which is well behind the league leaders.
Lee didn’t start his 2010 campaign ideally, as he started the year on the 15-day DL due to an abdominal strain. His time with the Mariners was limited and on July 9 the Texas Rangers traded for the ace.
He has a rock solid 2.44 ERA, but that number isn’t as eye popping as Josh Johnson’s 1.96 nor Adam Wainwright’s 2.07.
Lee’s 126 strikeouts is impressive considering he missed a month, but he is barely in the top 10 in the AL.
So, what makes Cliff Lee’s season so special?
To start things off, the former Cy Young winner has pitched seven complete games. In addition, he has two games where he has pitched nine innings, but due to lack of run support, the games ended in extras. In his 19 starts, Lee has pitched 155 innings. If you do the math, that is more than eight innings per start.
Let’s put that stat in perspective. CC Sabathia, who has a reputation of being a workhorse, averages 6.2 innings per start. Let that sink in for a while. The Rangers bullpen basically gets every 5th day off. In my opinion the workload that Lee is enduring this year deserves not only Cy Young consideration, but also MVP consideration.
Who is having the best season?
Lee is also leading the majors in WHIP, with a microscopic .916. If he keeps up his historic pace, his WHIP would be ranked 9th all time for a lefty in a single season. Four of the marks ahead of him happened before 1915.
Now, here is a mind blowing number.
Lee’s walks per nine innings is a microscopic .5. Yes, you read that right, .5. Now, I’m not a math major, but that means he gives up a walk every 18 innings. His .5 walks per nine innings is the second lowest since 1880! Ironically, the only other play to beat him over that span is Carlos Silva, who in 2004 walked .4 batters per nine innings. He currently ranks first all time among lefties in that category.
As you can see, Lee has had historic control over the strike zone this season. He has also been striking out batters at a respectable rate of 6.9 per nine innings. So, where does his strikeouts per walk rank him in the history books?
Well, let’s just say his strikeouts per walk ratio is as impressive as Barry Bonds’s 73 home run season (minus the performance enhancers).
Lee strikes out fourteen batters per walk. Let’s put that stat in perspective. The record in a single season is 11. Only two other pitchers have had their ratio in the double digits. So, not only will Lee set the record, he would demolish it.
While there is still plenty of baseball left to be played, Lee is on pace to have one of the best seasons by a left-handed pitcher in baseball history. A couple of bad outings can easily destroy his quest for history, but let’s just keep in perspective what Cliff Lee is doing this season.
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