Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Twinny Twin Twin

With all of the love being bestowed upon Clifton Phifer Lee (and deservedly so) in the wake of his 20th win, as Gaylord Perry’s name gets more run than it has since his HOF induction, and with the probability of the Indians netting their 2nd Cy Young in as many years after a bit of a drought, let’s take a moment to appreciate what C.P. Lee has accomplished just one year after his disastrous 2007 campaign.

I’m not going to get into how absurdly awful Lee’s 2007 was, but the fact that he was left off the postseason roster last year is a pretty good indication of where he was in the organization’s pecking order at the end of 2007. And lest anyone forget, Lee was in a dogfight for the 5th spot in the rotation with Aaron Laffey (who didn’t throw strikes in Winter Haven) and Jeremy Sowers when the team spent its final days in Florida. How long ago does that feel today, as Lee’s 20th victory is a SportsCenter staple and it’s not a stretch to say that the Cy Young Award engraver is practicing his double f’s and double e’s.

Truthfully, as I sit here in the land of the “one-hitter”, where folks in Milwaukee are somehow convinced that CC will sweep both the NL Cy Young AND the NL MVP, it’s hard not to have a bitter edge as the Indians (had their season not hit the commode, for various reasons) started the season with CC and Lee occupying 40% of their rotation. Those two should be providing the one-two punch that the Indians utilized in riding Sabathia and Carmona down the stretch last year to another playoff berth.

Nevertheless, what’s done is done and in addition to figuring who fits where for 2009, the Indians’ season has been reduced to lauding individual accomplishments and milestones. So, with a 30-30 man already in the clubhouse, the Indians have a 20-game winner to celebrate…and celebrate they should.

A celebration is in order to acknowledge what Lee has put together this year, which is nothing short of astounding:
20-2, 2.32 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 149 K, 27 BB in 194 1/3 IP over 27 games

Look at those numbers again and you see Lee AVERAGING more than 7 IP per start with over 5 ½ K to ever BB over those 27 games. How good has Lee been in comparison to the rest of the Indians’ starters?
I know that Wins is an arbitrary statistic, with far better measures of a pitcher’s effectiveness out there, but this is how the win totals of the Indians’ starters look on the season:
Lee – 20
Byrd – 7
Carmona – 7
Sabathia – 6
Laffey – 5
Sowers – 2
Reyes – 2
Westbrook – 1
Ginter – 1
The Indians’ starters have 51 wins this year…and Lee has 20 of them!
Seeing as how Lee has started 27 of the 136 games (19.8% of the games) and is responsible for nearly 40% of the victories that starters have notched blows the mind.

To have 20 wins on a team that has 66 games total is a mind-blowing statistic, but go further and examine the five games that he started and received a no-decision:
May 12 vs. Toronto – 9 IP, 0 ER, 7 H, 5 K, 2 BB (Indians lost 3-0 when Betancourt gave up 3 in the 10th)

June 14 vs. San Diego – 6 1/3 IP, 2 ER, 8 H, 6 K, 0 BB (Indians lost 8-3 with Kouzmanoff GS in the 10th)

June 20 vs. Los Angeles – 7 1/3 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 3 K, 1 BB (Indians won 6-4 in 10 after a JoeBo BS in 9th)

July 1 vs. Chicago – 8 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 3 K, 1 BB (Indians lost 3-2 with JoeBo BS in 10th)

July 30 vs. Detroit – 5 IP, 6 ER, 10 H, 5 KK, 0 BB (Indians lost 14-12 in a shoot-out)
That’s it…those are his 5 no decisions, 4 of which include blown saves or bullpen blow-ups.

He’s given up 4 ER or more in FIVE of his 27 starts and has allowed ZERO ER in eight of his starts!
I could just go on and on about the season he’s put together – the fact that he leads all starters in the AL in ERA, in Quality Starts, is second in K/BB, is third in WHIP, and has held opponents to a .602 OPS (again, 2nd best in the AL among starters).

But to me, Lee’s 2008 is the surprise that nobody saw coming, the reclamation of a career that seemed (not too long ago) to be on the brink of derailment, a bright ray of sunshine in an otherwise cloudy season. And for those who had written him off (present company included) or are quick to call the Indians’ 2008 season a total loss or the first step in a downward descent, it’s a reminder that hope does spring eternal and that anything is possible in this crazy game of baseball – Cliff Lee’s 20th victory just proved it again.


bookelly said...

Thanks for the great writing Paul.

Les Savy Ferd said...

amen to that. In a world (sports) were superlatives get thrown around with reckless abandon, Lee's 2008 season has been nothing short of absolutely astounding.

Rockdawg said...

I love CC, but the Mil-you-walk-aye fans are going to be disappointed when they realize he will not win either the Cy Young (Webb), or MVP (Pujols). He is, of course, the best pitcher in the NL, but the voters don't like half-seasons.

Had he been pitching in the NL all year, he may have had a chance for both.

Paul Cousineau said...

Every so often, I get an e-mail from people who want to contribute to the comments section, but are unable to for some reason (damn you, Blogger).

Anywho, I got this from a guy who calls himself Captain Popov, weighing in on the remaining schedule and some thoughts on the rest of the season, as well as next year:

Keith Law, ESPN baseball guy says that the Indians are right where the Rockies were on September 1 last year. Our schedule is not too bad until that last weekend, can these feather heads stay focused and play hard all September? Yes, getting swept by Seattle was brutal, but this team has will not give up.

There are 3 guys who need to be in the everyday lineup next April, they are, in no particular order:
1. Shin Shoo Choo
2. Kelly Shoppach
3. Benny Francisco
They are delivering on a nightly basis. No more platooning, give a guy a job and let me get comfortable with and let him perform, i.e. Shoppach, even though it was injury induced playing time. I think that Victor should be taking a lot of grounders at first base, put Rockstar Shoppach behind the plate and go get a corner infielder you has some pop in his bat.

Marte is a bust. Do you deal Barfield? I have always been on the fence with Peralta, and I have been convinced that he needs to be in the lineup. Maybe Jhonny P. moves to third base and Astro Cab moves to Shortstop and you live and die with Barfield at second base.

In all of this talk about how good the Indians are playing, the CC trade, next year, we need to focus on Shapiro and his inability to get key players to fill in holes and get us over the hump. I know he has limited resources but he must be held accountable for this team. If the Tribe goes in the tank next year, out with Shapiro. My new web site is www.bringCaseyBlakebacktoCleveland.com. Some people hate him, but he was they most underrated guy on the field. He will hit 25 HRs drive in around 80RBIs and hit around .275.
I don't care what you say, that's quality.

Spoons Fiddlesticks said...

It's worth recalling that not only was Lee fighting for the 5th starter in Winter Haven, but that he basically backed into it by virtue of his contract. None of the candidates (Laffey, Sowers, Lee) were impressive in WH, and none distinguished themselves from the others. The fact that Lee had a big contract and more ML experience than the others was decisive; the pitching wasn't. His history-making dominance in April came from nowhere, not only when compared to 2007 but even when compared to March 2008.

Fred said...

Captain Popov is impressive. Never before have I seen an assessment so lengthy in which every statement was wrong (except, perhaps, for Shoppach).