I’ve been watching sports for a few years now, and you can tell when a guy doesn’t have it anymore. It was pretty obvious when LaDanian Tomlinson didn’t have it anymore. It was pretty obvious when Priest Holmes wasn’t dominant. In baseball, it’s not always as obvious. Atlanta Braves’ fans will tell you that they thought (deep down) that Chipper was done a few times over the last decade. I’ll tell you that I think Cliff Lee is done, right now. I think this is the last time he’ll be the dominant pitcher we’ve come to know…and pay over $20 million dollars.
I don’t know why he isn’t on the trade block yet and I don’t know if the Phillies will be able to keep him in the years to come if they don’t want to pay the luxury tax in coming years.
In order to understand where Cliff Lee is going, we have to take a look at his career statistics:
(as always, statistics are from the indispensable Baseball Reference and are through 25 July 2012)
If you’ve followed my writing over any period of time, you might know that I’m a new-age baseball statistics sort of guy. I take a lot stock in stats like WAR, ERA+, WHIP, and, oddly, IP.
If we focus on those statistics for Cliff Lee, it’s pretty clear that something is happening and the trend is in regression mode. Let’s start on the left side of the chart and dissect each statistic. Make sure you have a beverage available – I don’t want anyone dehydrating on me.
Win-Loss Record: I don’t put a ton of stock into this statistic, and thankfully, most of baseball doesn’t either. We saw this when Felix Hernandez won the American League Cy Young in 2010 with a 13-12 record for a bad Seattle Mariners team. Either way, Cliff Lee isn’t winning a lot of games this year and that can probably be chalked up to some really bad offense for the Phillies.
ERA:While I said that I put a lot of stock in to ERA+ (because it’s just a better statistic), there is still something to be said for ERA. I tried to find a pitcher with some similarities to Lee from the same era, and it wasn’t easy. I’m sure I missed the obvious choice, but I went with current Pittsburgh Pirate A.J. Burnett. While Burnett is having a great season, it’s not the rule, it’s an exception. If you look at Burnett’s 33-year-old season, you’ll see some interesting similarities to Lee’s 2012 season. Mainly, that his ERA jumped 1.5 points. Many would argue that 2008 was Burnett’s last great year before a slight drop at age 32 and a plummet at age 33. Look at Lee’s numbers and tell me if you don’t see the same thing…except in reverse. I don’t really believe in coincidence.
Innings Pitched: With the exception of 2007, Lee has always been healthy and contributed to his team. I can’t say that he isn’t doing the same this year, and he’s done it while the staff around him has suffered with injuries and bad bullpen performance.
Hits/Nine: While we’re talking about weird similarities with pitchers when they hit the age of 33…I’ll stick with Burnett for this experiment because he’s as close to Lee as I can find. This season, Lee’s Hits/Nine have jumped 1.5, when Burnett turned 33 (and had a similar defense behind him), his 1.4 the same season. Again I ask, are we looking at a coincidence or something more?
Walks/Nine: You won’t get arguments from me about Lee’s control and ability to not walk guys. It’s not something he’s ever had a huge problem with and he’s been able to keep it under control this year.
Strikeouts/Nine: If you only concentrate on the last couple of seasons, it looks like Lee’s numbers have dropped slightly in strikeouts. I don’t think that’s a fair argument. He’s had a drop off in recent years, but he’s right on track with his career numbers and that’s to be expected. That’s why it bothers me even more. He hasn’t walked more guys or struck out any fewer guys. Why are the rest of his numbers so bad? As I’m arguing, maybe he just doesn’t have it anymore.
ERA+: For those of you who don’t know what ERA+ is, check out this link. As I’ve mentioned, I hold a lot of stock in ERA+ because the formula works and it’s a fair comparison of pitchers who throw in completely different ballparks. As you can see, Lee is average. Not even one point above average. Not even one point below. For his ballpark, his ERA is exactly what some average pitcher would be expected to throw. One thing is different – Cliff Lee makes more than $20 million.
Walks and Hits Per Inning Pitched (WHIP): You could make two arguments for Lee’s WHIP. You could say that he’s right on par with his career numbers and that he isn’t allowing any more base runners than normal. Or, you could think about it for two seconds and realize that’s worrisome, much like the strikeout rate is.
Wins Above Replacement: 2011: 8.3 and Phillies win 102 games. 2012: 1.6 and Phillies might lose 102 games. It’s not all Lee’s fault, but he isn’t helping the cause and he isn’t very much better than a guy from Triple-A who isn’t making $20 million.
You can argue about his statistics all day long and you can even call it an off year for a team that’s having a bad year. This isn’t just a Cliff Lee problem. This is a Philadelphia Phillies problem. We have guys all over the diamond that are being overpaid because of the things that they used to do for us. They used to win big ball games and they used to be worth the money. We back-loaded a lot of contracts and we aren’t seeing the results. We are well on our way to becoming everything I hate about baseball – the New York Yankees. Is that what you want Philadelphia? Me either.
Related VideosReturning Soon!!!!
No related posts.
Short URL: http://sport-ne.ws/hwj