Cliff Lee putting up Nintendo numbers

As some of our most diehard readers (no, not ourselves) may have noticed, I have not written an entry for a few weeks now. Conspicuous by my absence during the last few weeks of intensified school work, there has been a lack of entries related to the Cleveland Indians (with the exception of Joe Blow Borowski’s DL stint). In the interest of journalistic integrity, I told myself that my next entry would pertain to something else entirely unconnected to the Indians. Being a student of cultural politics, this week’s celebration of Jackie Robinson was one topic I wanted to write about. However, while I’ve been away jail-raping end of the semester exams, Cliff Lee has been jail-raping American League hitters. The numbers are staggering: 4-0, 0.28 ERA. In 31 2/3 innings, Lee has allowed 11 hits, struck out 29, walked 2, and put up a ridiculous WHIP of 0.411. Last night, Cliff Lee allowed 3 hits and struck out 9 batters in a complete game shut out of the Royals.

Last year, Cliff Lee hit rock bottom and just never was able to command his fastball. The Indians relied on Aaron Laffey down the stretch as Lee rotted away for the rest of the year in AAA Buffalo. He was called up in September, but not put on the postseason roster after being identified as a core member of Indians organization by the brain trust of Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti just one year earlier. Lee had an altercation with all star catcher and team leader Victor Martinez, which resulted in a players-only meeting following the game. For most Indians fans, the most symbolic indication of Lee’s demise came in his last start before being optioned to AAA, where Lee left the game after 4 innings to a chorus of ‘boos’, and proceeded to sarcastically tip his cap to the fans. Lee appeared apathetic, and his altercation with Victor Martinez wasn’t helping fan perception.

All off-season, it seemed inevitable that Lee was going to be traded. But as is often the case, GM Mark Shapiro refused to make a trade simply for the sake of making a trade. So Lee remained, fixed his mechanics in spring, and earned a spot in the starting rotation. The difference in Lee is clear. He has gotten back to commanding the fastball and getting ahead of counts. He’s aggressive in going after hitters, something that helped him win 18 games in 2005 and 14 in 2006, earning him a 3 year contract extension through the 2009 season. Instead of apathy, Lee is back to exuding a quiet confidence in his abilities. He’s a guy who doesn’t always wear his emotion on his sleeve, but wants to win as badly as anybody else. Just watch how the guy attacks hitters inside. Lee isn’t particularly blessed with any exceptional stuff, but does feature a 4-seam fastball, a cut fastball, a circle change, slider, and a big curveball. While his 88-91 mph range is by no means overwhelming, Lee possesses a great ability to command ALL of his pitches and use his off speed stuff to work off of the fastball. Like any pitcher, when you do that, you can succeed.

Lee’s surprising start has come at a great time, as reigning Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia has been slow out of the gate, but appears to be turning the corner after a dominating start against Kansas City. Fausto Carmona has been able to overcome control issues by being a human ground-ball machine. Right now, Lee is pitching like an all star, and there’s no reason why he can’t continue to be very good. No, I’m not predicting a 0.28 ERA and 0.411 WHIP at the end of the year for Cliff Lee. But, he can certainly give the Indians a chance to win every time out. With Cliff Lee pitching like this, a trio of Sabathia, Carmona, and Lee has the Indians primed for a hot streak in the coming weeks, and gives them a chance to be right in the thick of things in the American League once again.

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One Comment on “Cliff Lee putting up Nintendo numbers”

  1. […] Cliff Lee has a long way since tipping his hat to a crowd of boo’s back at the Jake (or Prog?) last season. Lee has always been talented, but completely fell off last season. He seems to have rectified his problems this season, as he has been phenomenal so far. Lee is leading the AL, and MLB for that matter, with a microscopic 0.96 ERA. He is 5-0 and pitching like an ace. The Tribe might be disappointing people so far, but it won’t last long. C.C. Sabathia is back on track and Rafael Betancourt has filled in nicely at closer for the injured Joe Borowski. Lee will be essential to Cleveland climbing through the ranks of the AL Central. Resident homer Ben has some praise for Cliff Lee… […]

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