Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lee Wins #15, Makes Case for Cy Young

It took 115 pitches and 7 innings, 5 runs of support and 2 solid relief innings from Rafael Perez but that was enough to give the Indians a win Monday vs. the Rays. Wins these days are few and far between for the disappointing Tribe but this was an even more special one, not necessarily for the team, but for the starting pitcher. The win was Cliff Lee's 15th on the season, tops in baseball and three away from a career high -- in early August. Coupled with only 2 losses and an ERA under 2.60, Cliff is having the best season for an Indians pitcher in almost 30 years and is making his case to be the second Indian in as many seasons to win the Cy Young Award, the most prestigious for a pitcher in all of baseball.

Let's take a look at how Cliff stacks up against other competitors at this point of the season.

Cliff Lee, SP, Indians: 15-2, 2.58 ERA, 127 Ks, 22 BBs, 153.2 innings, 2 CGs, 1 shutout

It's hard to find flaws in anything Cliff Lee has done this year because, well... there aren't any. With an AL-leading 15 wins, AL-low (for starters) 2 losses, and 2nd best 2.58 ERA he has made as strong a case as any for the award. Did I mention his 127 strikeouts to only 22 walks -- a 6-1 ratio?!

Joe Saunders, SP, Angels: 14-5, 3.03 ERA, 70 Ks, 41 BBs, 145.2 innings, 1 CG

Saunders presents probably the greatest challenge to Lee from another starting pitcher with his 14 wins and ERA just over 3, however his 5 losses and subpar strikeout-to-walk ratio will hurt his cause. The fact that he anchors the staff of the best team in baseball will make up for any statistical disadvantages to Cliff Lee, who is on a last-place team.

Mike Mussina, SP, Yankees: 14-7, 3.44 ERA, 90 Ks, 19 BBs, 133.1 innings

Mussina's resurgent season should not be discredited, however some of these statistics may be lying. The Moose has received excellent run support from the Bronx Bombers and has been bailed out by a strong bullpen. He also has 7 losses to his credit. However, 14 wins does stand for a lot as does his excellent control, only 19 walks in 133+ innings. Perhaps he should be in the running for keeping the Yanks in the playoff hunt in the absence of ace Wang.

Juistin Duchscherer, SP, Athletics: 10-7, 2.33 ERA, 78 Ks, 31 BBs, 1 CG, 1 shutout

Duchscherer's trouble is the opposite of Mussina's. He hasn't received anything remotely resembling run support from the A's. With a 2.33 ERA, best in baseball, he will be in the conversation for this award despite his team's lack of help and his average win-loss record. A stretch of 5 or 6 wins to finish out the season would be Duchsherer's only hope.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP, Red Sox: 12-2, 3.04 ERA, 94 Ks, 64 BBs, 106.2 innings

I will argue against Dice-K winning this award with any Red Sox fan alive, but his stats put him in the conversation. With one of the highest run supports in baseball, Dice-K has won 12 games with only 2 losses despite walking 64 men in 106.2 innings of work. He deserves some credit for pitching out of trouble but has also left some games due for a loss where he team has come back to win. His time on the DL will hurt his case for the Cy Young Award.

Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Angels: 1-2, 2.40 ERA, 51 Ks, 28 BBs, 48.2 IP, 45/48 saves

K-Rod has been the best closer in baseball this season with 45/48 converted save chances, by far the most in baseball. However his relatively high ERA and 1-2 record will count against him as will the question in voters' minds: should a reliever win this award? K-Rod is worthy for certain, but one has to remeber that saves only come from a team being in a save situation, something the Angels have had plenty of this year. Saves can be overrated as well. K-Rod has had a number of those this year with a 3 run lead and even a 1-pitch save against the Indians where he came in up 3 to spell another Angels reliever with 2 outs.

Mariano Rivera, RP, Yankees: 4-4, 1.49 ERA, 58 Ks, 5 BBs, 48.1 innings, 26/26 saves

No that isn't a misprint. Mariano Rivera has a 100% save conversion and only 5 walks in 48.1 innings. However, he has been very average in non-save situations, picking up 4 losses that the competing Yankees could not afford. The other thing that will hurt Rivera is that he has 19 fewer saves than the AL leader, Francisco Rodriguez and his team is currently in third place. What will help Rivera? That 26/26 stat and the fact he plays in New York.

Joe Nathan, RP, Twins: 0-0, 1.18 ERA, 49 Ks, 11 BBs, 45.2 innings, 30/32 saves

If you asked my opinion, I'd tell you that Joe Nathan is the best closer in baseball. Try telling that to the media. Nathan has yet to pick up a loss on the season, has the best ERA in baseball by any closer at 1.18 and has converted 30/32 save chances. He has been virtually unhittable for the Twins who don't score a lot of runs for him to carry into the 9th. Nathan probably should win this award over the other two closers, but his lack of save opportunities and the fact he plays in Minnesota will hurt him.

My Ballot:

1st Place- Cliff Lee
2nd Place- Joe Saunders
3rd Place- Joe Nathan
4th Place- Francisco Rodriguez
5th Place- Daisuke Matsuzaka

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