Cliff Lee vs. Wandy Rodriguez: A Tale of Two Pitchers

Adam BernacchioAnalyst IIIApril 4, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 03:  Hiroki Kuroda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the fifth inning at Dodger Stadium on April 3, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Giants 7-5.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Two left-handed pitchers squared off on Saturday night. One pitcher is considered elite and one of the 10 best pitchers in the game. The other pitcher is considered good, but nothing special.

However, if you look at each pitcher’s performance over the past two seasons, they are quite comparable. Let’s take a look at these two pitchers over the past two seasons:

As you can see, both pitchers are pretty comparable. Pitcher A is not too far off on ERA and xFIP and has a better Groundball Percentage and K/9 rate than Pitcher B. Pitcher B has much better control and has the slight edge in ERA and xFIP.

For those of you who are sitting on pins and needles wondering who these pitchers are, I’ll go ahead and tell you. Pitcher A is Wandy Rodriguez and Pitcher B is Cliff Lee.

Look, I know this is not the best comparison to make after Rodriguez was torched on Saturday (seven runs and nine hits in four innings) and Lee was his usual solid self (three runs and 11 K’s in seven innings). But one game doesn’t make a season.

And let me say if I had one game to win, I would take Lee over Rodriguez in a cocaine addict’s heartbeat. But I wrote this post for a couple of reasons…

1. I always am fascinated by the perception of players. Lee was the No. 1 free agent on the market this offseason. A lot of that has to do with his postseason performances over the years. When a player blows up in the national spotlight, his stock rises.

It’s the Carlos Beltran effect.

Rodriguez has pitched on an Houston Astros team that has been mainly irrelevant over the past two seasons. Rodriguez signed a three-year, $34 million extension in the offseason. That’s a far cry from the five-year, $120 million contract. Lee got from the Phillies.

It seems the Astros got the rare good value for them. Usually they are signing washed up hacks to multi-year deals.

2. Because the Astros are going to stink of offense, defense and in the bullpen, they are going to lose a lot of games in 2011. However, it won’t be the starting rotation’s fault. I have been saying since March that the Astros have an underrated starting rotation.

Brett Myers, Bud Norris, JA Happ and Rodriguez is a pretty good foursome. It’s not great, but I would take them over a lot of rotations in baseball.

The fact that Rodriguez pitches in the NL Central certainly helps. And what makes Lee’s numbers even more impressive is that he has done it spending more than three-fourths of the time in the AL.

Lee will still be considered and elite and Rodriguez will be considered good, but not great. But that shouldn’t be the case.

In the last two years, these two haven’t been far off in terms of production.

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