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The Dumbest Thing You’ll Read All Year

Posted By Bill Baer On June 12, 2012 @ 8:00 am In MLB,Philadelphia Phillies,Sabermetrics | 31 Comments

Before I link you to an article, here are some facts:

  • Clifton Phifer Lee ranks third in Major League Baseball in strikeouts as a percentage of batters faced (27.4%)
  • Lee is one of only 13 pitchers in MLB with a walk rate under 5%
  • Lee has the second-best strikeout-to-walk ratio in baseball
  • Lee has the 10th-best FIP (2.97), sandwiched between Matt Cain and Jered Weaver
  • Lee has the third-best xFIP (2.66), sandwiched between Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez
  • Lee has the third-best SIERA (2.53), sandwiched between Zack Grienke and Cole Hamels (who is well behind at 2.85)
  • Lee is inducing ground balls at a 52% rate, easily a career-high
  • Lee has not had a game xFIP greater than 3.77 in any of his starts in 2012. For comparison, Jered Weaver has a 3.73 xFIP on the season. Lee’s worst start has been about as good as Weaver has been on average all season.

Now, the article. It’s from Bleacher Report. That is your warning to avoid clicking the link. But you’ll miss the overwhelming stupidity.

Cliff Lee: Philadelphia Phillies Fans Should All Be Fed Up with Lee

Some quotes:

…the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans should be expecting—and getting—more from Cliff Lee.

Lee has the same exact ERA he had in 2010 when he finished with the second-best strikeout-to-walk ratio in Major League history (10.3; Bret Saberhagen has the record with 11.0 set in 1994). Lee also finished seventh in AL Cy Young voting that year, splitting time with the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers, the latter which he helped bring to the World Series.

This season, Lee is the third-highest-paid pitcher in all of baseball, behind the Mets’ Johan Santana and the Yankees’ CC Sabathia. For $21.5 million, Lee is not getting it done, and at some point, he lost the ability to shut teams down once the Phillies have the lead.

Lee’s OPS allowed by score margin:

  • Tie game: .678
  • Within one run: .680
  • Within two runs: .680
  • Within three runs: .691
  • Within four runs: .691

Again, factually incorrect.

It started in the NLDS last season against the eventual World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. After the Phillies roared back to crush the Cardinals 11-6 in Game 1, they handed Lee a 4-0 lead that should have put the NLDS on ice. 

However, Lee was torched by the likes of Ryan Theriot, Jon Jay and Rafael Furcal to blow the lead, the game, the series and the season.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. I went through each hit individually (with .gifs!) after that game and concluded that Lee was truly at fault for four of the 12 hits he allowed. The Cardinals got a lot of lucky, dinky hits. Here are some of the hits the author cites:

Theriot

Jay

Furcal

This is the problem with the “I watch the games!” (and nothing else) crowd — their memory is colored by future events. If the Phillies went on to win that series and Cliff Lee was 10-0 with a 2.00 ERA this year, then that NLDS start isn’t viewed nearly as negatively. However, because the Phillies lost in five games to the Cardinals, and because Lee is unluckily winless through ten starts, his NLDS start is remembered much more negatively than is necessary.

Let’s examine some of Lee’s starts this season

From above: Lee has not had a game xFIP greater than 3.77 in any of his starts in 2012. For comparison, Jered Weaver has a 3.73 xFIP on the season. Lee’s worst start has been about as good as Weaver has been on average all season.

As the stats have shown, Lee has been Cy Young-caliber through ten starts. He’s winless because he has had the fourth-worst run support in baseball. Remember that time Lee threw ten (ten!) scoreless innings in San Francisco and his team lost 1-0? Cliff Lee didn’t get it done with the bat, and he gets a free pass for that!

Now, look at these teams and think of how offensively challenged they are

He lists the Mets, Astros, and Dodgers as “offensively challenged” even though they all have above-average offenses: 4.30, 4.35, and 4.35 runs per game, respectively, compared to the 4.18 league average.

The rest of the article is talk radio caller material and might cause an aneurysm if you are able to get to that point.

This 2012 season has been frustrating, for sure. There are a lot of reasons why the Phillies have been severe underachievers, but Cliff Lee is not one of them. Lashing out at him, rather than the 20 or so other worthy candidates reflects poorly on the Phillies fan base. We should have moved on from scapegoating the team’s best player, but Lee appears to be the latest in a group that includes Cole Hamels, Bobby Abreu, Scott Rolen, and Curt Schilling.

Then again, this is par for the course for Bleacher Report, the absolute lowest in sportswriting this side of newspaper website comments.


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