Cliff Lee was everything we’d hoped he would be. The same cannot be said for the rest of his teammates.
Over the course of 13 starts in his Seattle Mariners career, Cliff was dominant. He averaged 7.96 innings per start, struck out 89 batters, walked a total of 6, and ran a minuscule Fielding Independent Pitching line of 2.16. Cliff Lee is a pitcher who does everything well. He throws strikes. He misses bats. He gets ahead of hitters. He doesn’t throw his fastball too much. And he induces his fair share of ground-balls.
I was present at two games that Lee started this season. In the first, Cliff went seven scoreless innings and struck out eight Rangers, but the M’s offense couldn’t get anything going against the Rangers’ Colby Lewis. The team lost in 12 innings, despite having the bases loaded on two separate occasions. You might remember that game. In the second game I was present at, Lee cruised seven innings only to have his defense fail him completely in the eighth. Cliff struck out five and walked none in eight innings and was credited with a “loss.”
Those two games were notably indicative of both Cliff Lee’s overall 2010 performance and that of the Seattle Mariners’ offense. Cliff couldn’t do anything wrong, but the M’s couldn’t do anything right.
In case you missed it, Cliff’s K-BB ratio in Seattle was almost 15:1, and he got hitters to swing and miss over 9% of the time he threw a pitch. His numbers were ungodly, and now he’s gone. Good thing we still have Felix Hernandez to ease the pain.
Let it also be noted that Cliff Lee helped us turn Philippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies, and J.C. Ramirez into Justin Smoak, Josh Lueke, Blake Beavan, and Matt Lawson. Aumont has been moved back to the bullpen, Gillies’ development has stalled, and Ramirez has appeared extremely hittable in AA. Oh, and Gillies was recently charged with Cocaine possession. On the other hand, Smoak hit .325/.400/.575 in his 45 September plate appearances, including three mammoth home runs hit against his former organization, and Josh Lueke (despite his legal troubles) put up a composite K/9 over 12 this season.
Outlook: Cliff Lee probably won’t return to the Mariners next season, barring a miracle (Eric Wedge, anyone?), but he will continue to be awesome. If there’s anyone that deserves a World Series ring, it’s Cliff Lee.