Cliff Lee's Injured, But Don't Freak Out

At least it's not Madden.

I’d like to start out by listing some facts.

  1. Cliff Lee, by all accounts is a 5-6 win pitcher over the course of a full season.
  2. Nick Hill/Shawn Kelley/Cliff Lee Replacement is probably a 0.5-1 win pitcher over the course of a full season.
  3. Cliff Lee has an abdominal injury.
  4. Don Wakamatsu told the press that the last time Cliff Lee suffered from this particular injury, he needed six weeks to recover from it completely.  (Thanks, Larry LaRue.)

Admittedly, I freaked out when I heard the news.  It’s a rational response.  When you hear that the second half of your rotation’s 1-2 punch is out for over a month, you certainly shouldn’t be feeling good.  Cliff Lee is the Lewis to Felix’s Clark.  The Starsky to his Hutch. The Laurel to his Hardy.  The peanut butter to his jelly.  Sure, it’s awesome to have one massively talented pitcher, but two hurlers are better than one.

So let’s assume all goes well in the recovery process and Cliff takes only 5-6 weeks to return to his usual form.  Let’s list some more facts, because I like facts.  But this time, let’s use bullet points for some variety.

  • It is currently March 26th.
  • The injury occurred sometime in the later stages of last week (so we can cross one of the six recovery weeks off the list).
  • Five weeks from now, it will be May 2nd.
  • The season starts on April 5th, ten days from now, so a large part of the injury recovery time will have passed by that date.

Cliff Lee would have made starts on the 6th, 11th, 17th, 23rd, and 28th of April had he not been injured.  So, in summary, the total number of starts Cliff Lee is likely to miss is 5.  Now let’s assume Cliff is worth 6 wins over 34 starts.  If he misses five of these starts, his season WAR total would go down by about 0.8 wins.

This injury won’t do us much harm, folks.  Losing Cliff for April will probably cost us about one win.  Maybe even a fraction of a win.  And who’s to say that Nick Hill/Shawn Kelley/Doug Fister won’t step in and contribute some 6 or 7 inning starts in Lee’s place?  It’s unlikely, but it’s possible.

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  • Rob

    There’s a problem with depending solely on stats. WAR is helpful, but look at it this way.
    Fister replaces Lee in those 5 starts. What would you estimate the M’s record in those 5 games, depending on who starts? Here’s mine: Lee=4-1, Fister=1-4. Injury cost us 3 wins. Then there’s the psychological affect on the team having Lee on the shelf, the added pressure to guys like Snell who seems like the type who can’t handle “having to do more” and will perform worse as more is expected of him.

    Bottom line: The Lee injury is BAD.

  • Griffin Cooper

    That’s flawed logic though Rob. To just decide on a whim that we’re a 1-4 team in 5 Fister starts but 4-1 in 5 Lee starts doesn’t tell you anything. There are a lot more contributing factors aside from just who’s starting. This team could very well go 5-0 in 5 Fister starts if the offense performs well and the opposing team sucks it up. On the other end of things, they could very well go 0-5 in 5 Lee starts if the offense slumps. Yeah, who’s on the mound certainly impacts the game, but it doesn’t decide game outcomes by itself.