Monday, September 1

Perspectives on Cliff Lee

Good Morning! It’s Monday at 10:19 in the PM, and this is "Perspectives"! I’m your host Lionel Osbourne, to offer some perspective on Cliff Lee's ridiculous 20-2 (so far) 2008 campaign. I'm going to do so by comparing it to Kevin Millwood's 2005 season and CC Sabathia's Cy Young-winning 2007:

Lee 2008: 2.32 ERA (leads league), 5.5 K/BB ratio, 1.050 WHIP, 189 ERA+
C'baoth: 3.21 ERA (5th in league), 5.6 K/BB ratio, 1.141 WHIP, 143 ERA+
Millwood 2005: 2.86 ERA (led league), 2.81 K/BB ratio, 1.219 WHIP, 146 ERA+

(Before we advance, two quick numbers because I like numbers. Can you believe Borowski led the AL in saves last year? I guess I knew that but maybe my brain had subconsciously discarded that info because, come on, Joe Borowski? Also: CC has an ERA+ since joining the NL of 302, an ERA of 1.43, and a WHIP of 0.989. Those are video game numbers. The best ever single season ERA+ is 294, but that was set in 1880. The best modern-day number is Pedro Martinez's 291 in 2000; Greg Maddux claims two of the five best ever. CC is awesome.)

Lee has pitched considerably better this year than Millwood did three years ago and has been much more effective than Sabathia was a season ago - nearly a full run per game! Both Millwood and Sabathia led the league in ERA and all three were the most effective chuckers the AL had to offer, with the possible exception of Johan Santana in '05. Lee has much better peripherals.

Sabathia won the Cy Young yet Millwood, who generally had similar numbers (almost identical ERA+), finished sixth in the Cy Young voting. Sixth! Bartolo Colon won that year with an ERA+ of 122. The guy who finished fourth only had an ERA+ of 111. Yeah, that was none other than Cliff Lee. Only Santana (who should have won) beat Millwood in ERA+ (and had a sub-one WHIP), yet Millwood pulled down exactly one third-place vote. That's ridiculous. Sabathia's race was close. His resume was pretty near that of competitors like Lackey, Carmona, and Beckett, but I wrote last year that his numbers (including many more innings thrown) made a stronger case than all the other guys.

This year, Lee is the clear front-runner for the AL Cy Young - it's not even close right now. He actually has far better numbers than Millwood or CC did in their career years - the gap is wider than I expected when I started writing this, but the Cliff Lee Bandwagon is full for the same reason he beat Millwood out in voting in 2005 with an ERA almost a full run higher: more wins.

Lee went 18-5 in 2005 while Millwood inexplicably went 9-11. Yes, the league ERA leader had a losing record - and on a 93-win club no less. This is Exhibit A (a scale model of the entire mall! ha ha ha!) of why wins are not a good way to evaluate pitching performance. Lee's eye-popping 20-2 mark in 2008 is impressive, but in most years you'd expect him to be like 17-5 or something. Not that 17-5 wouldn't be excellent, but he's been both lucky and good this season. Millwood, by all rights, should have won 15-plus at least, what with leading the league in ERA and all. Funny how these things happen.

Fan-tas-tic! It's 10:33 in the PM and you're watching Perspectives! I'm Lionel Osbourne, closing with the thought that poor run support can make an excellent season seem so-so and make an even more excellent season seem historic.

1 comment:

Ernest said...

At the risk of sounding like a typical "glass is half empty" Cleveland fan, I am preparing to be pissed at a far-from-unanimous Cy Young award for Cliff. K-Rod, he of 58.1 IP, will probably get some first place votes. Maybe even Halladay. But dammit, if Dice-K gets some votes ahead of Lee then the impossible will be achieved: I will hate the red sox even more than I already do.