Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Amazing Cliff Lee

I should be up front.  Rob Neyer is easily my favorite baseball writer, and I have a very hard time being objective about anything he writes.  In nearly every case, I agree with his opinions.  He's rational, logical, and thoughtful.  All of those qualities incredibly rare in the baseball writing community.  (See Jay Mariotti, Murray Chass, Bill Plaschke, etc.)  What's not to love?  His latest article on Cliff Lee is no different.  In discussing some of the great pitching performances of postseason past, Neyer writes:
"But it's not just this fall in which Lee has thrived. He pitched brilliantly a year ago, too. In eight postseason starts -- five with the Phillies last year, now three more with the Rangers -- Lee's 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA.

I am fairly certain that no pitcher has ever started his postseason career with numbers like that."
Neyer is absolutely right.  While it's certainly premature to anoint Lee as the greatest postseason pitcher of all time, I think he certainly needs to be in the discussion pending the outcome of his next 2-3 starts.  While Neyer points out some of the more traditional numbers (7-0 with a 1.26 ERA in eight starts) as evidence, what really impresses me are his secondary stats.  In 64-1/3 postseason innings to date, Lee has struck out 67 batters and walked only 7.  A couple of things to note about this:  (1) Lee is averaging eight innings per postseason start, which in this day and age is unheard of; (2) Lee's 9.57 K/BB rate easily ranks #1 among all pitchers with at least 50 postseason innings pitched; and (3) 24 postseason innings in 2010, he's struck out 34 while walking only one.  There's only one word to describe his performance, and that's dominance.

At the end of the day, Lee may not become the best pitcher in postseason history, but he's created the "Must See TV" environment that's been missing from baseball since Pedro Martinez toed the rubber circa 1999-2001.

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