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By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – While we were sitting and waiting, for weeks, and weeks, and weeks, for Cliff Lee to record his first win this season, mentioning him in the same breath as the Cy Young award would have sounded insane. Now that the season’s over, and we’ve got the proper perspective, it’s maybe just a bit less crazy.
After a very good July that saw him post a 2.75 ERA with 30 strikeouts against a mere five walks, Lee was virtually unhittable over the season’s final two months. He made 12 starts in August and September and threw 85.2 innings. In slightly over 7 IP/GS, Lee put up a 2.31 ERA with a 22.0 K/BB ratio. Yes, he struck out 88 batters over those 12 starts while walking four.
In the end, Lee had another great season. Sure, it was down by his own elite standards from the last four years, but he finished 3rd among senior circuit pitchers in WAR even after missing three starts with an oblique injury. He led the league, or was among the league leaders, in a number of important and meaningful statistics both traditional and advanced.
However, the most traditional of traditional stats, and the one that unfortunately lacks real meaning — W-L record — is absolutely going to prevent Lee from winning his second Cy Young Award. It’s also probably going to prevent him from even placing in the voting.
Despite finishing 6-9 in 30 starts, Lee was arguably the best starting pitcher in the National League this season, whether we realized it or not.
Advanced statistics showed they were sneaking into mainstream MLB award voting when Felix Hernandez won the CY Young Award in 2010, despite having a record of just 13-12. Clearly, a 6-9 record is much different than 13-12, but if we’re deciding that metrics that show how a pitcher actually performed (strikeout to walk ratio, SIERA, WAR), rather than how the team performed around him are what’s really important, then Lee’s record should be of little concern.
Lee is very unlikely to get much support among voters for the award, but it will be interesting to see if he does receive any votes.