Posted tagged ‘Cliff Lee’

The Awards Races, Part 1


This years is shaping up for a number of excellent awards races. I don’t think that any are firmly decided, unlike the various pennant races. I’ll start by putting up a top 3 in each category as I think they would finish if the vote was held today, a guess as to season-ending votes, and then my personal preferences. We’ll start with the Cy Young races today.

AL Cy Young –

1. Jered Weaver
2. Justin Verlander
3. C.C. Sabathia

Season’s End:
1. Justin Verlander
2. C.C. Sabathia
3. Jered Weaver

My picks:
1. Justin Verlander
2. C.C. Sabathia
3. Jered Weaver

Thoughts: I think that Weaver’s sub-2.00 ERA would win him the Cy Young if the vote was held today. I also think it will tick up above 2.00, and his case is substantially weaker without it. I expect Verlander and Sabathia to hold up better, as I don’t think either is really pitching over his head. For Sabathia to pull it out, I think he needs to beat the Red Sox at least once. That has become a storyline, and it hurts him. My pick: No one has dominated in the way Verlander has.

NL Cy Young:

1. Roy Halladay
2. Cole Hamels
3. Craig Kimbrel

Season’s End:
1. Cole Hamels
2. Roy Halladay
3. Clayton Kershaw

My Picks:
1. Roy Halladay
2. Cliff Lee
3. Cole Hamels

Thoughts: At the moment, Halladay leads the league in wins and is second in ERA by .03. That should secure the award for him. I think Kimbrel, with his league-leading saves total as a rookie would do surprisingly well. If anyone passes him, his support collapses. I think that Hamels will sneak ahead by season’s end because of the general share-the-wealth principal. Halladay hasn’t been much better, and he won last year. For me, I love all of Lee’s shutouts, and he was pulled an inning short of sixth last night, but they still don’t quite match up to Halladay’s consistency overall. And, wow, the Phillies can pitch.


Lee vs. Halladay


Two days ago, the Philadelphia Phillies traded their ace, Cliff Lee, to the Seattle Mariners as part of a three team trade that netted Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays.  Which is the better pitcher going forward?  Clearly Halladay has been the better pitcher, but who should you count on next year and the year after?  Let’s break these pitchers down to see what we might expect.

To this point, each pitcher has won one Cy Young Award, Halladay in 2003 and Lee in 2008. Lee also had a 4th place finish in 2005, while Halladay has 4 other top 5 finishes. Lee has a career ERA+ of 109, while Halladay’s is 133. Again, Halladay has been better. So what? To start let’s look at similar pitchers.

Halladay, currently 32, has most similar pitchers Tim Hudson, Mike Mussina, Bret Saberhagen, Dizzy Dean, and Don Newcombe. In contrast, Lee, currently 31, has most similars Denny Neagle, Charles Nagy, Mark Mulder, John Burkett, and Schoolboy Rowe. Halladay’s list is certainly better, but it has some very troubling implications. At age 32, Hudson‘s career began to be derailed by injuries. Injuries crushed Saberhagen‘s career by age 31. By age 32, Dean was out of baseball. Newcombe was last effective at age 31, before alcohol swallowed his career. Only Mussina had a career that prospered at an age greater than 32, as he remained effective until his retirement at 39. Despite Halladay’s track record, warning signs exist. His career was marked by injuries in 2004 and 2005, and since then he has averaged 232 innings. A trip to the weaker hitting NL East should help lengthen his career, though he is also moving from the 23rd best hitter’s park to the 12th. With Halladay, I would expect a steep dropoff in the next couple of years.

Cliff Lee is trickier to predict. The similar pitchers tended not to last into their 30’s, but Lee has no injury history. He is only 31, and his FIP has consistently outperformed his xFIP (expected Fielding Independent Pitching). That is, projections have consistently underestimated his performance. Weight seems to be placed on his poor 2007, but it seems to be the aberration. His ERA+ dipped 30 points from 2006 to 2007, while his BB/9 and HR/9 spiked. 2008 and 2009 have been his best seasons, though he spent have of 2009 in a hitter’s park. Now he is going to a pitcher’s park with one of the best fielding teams in the major leagues. Lee is very likely to have an exceptional 2010, and he will only be the Mariners #2 starter, behind Felix Hernandez. Beyond that, I don’t know. His career post-2010 is contingent on where he spends 2011 and beyond.

So who should you like going forward? I expect Halladay to get a brief NL boost, but I similarly expect injuries and heavy usage to take a toll on him. While he will likely be very good in 2010, I worry about him through the rest of his contract extension. Lee, in contrast, should fill out his 1-year contract very well. Beyond that, too many variables remain open to say what will happen in 2011 and beyond.

What do you think? Who is the safer bet going forward?