Spring training! ... It's... Uhhh... Well... It's really just the worst. It's especially bad heading into a season like this, when almost every positive or negative analysis of a situation - from Michael Saunders looking competent to Adam Moore's injury - gets tagged with a variation of the phrase "...not that it really matters anyway, this team's not going to be that good regardless." So instead of dwelling on through meaningless games in anticipation of a likely meaningless season, I thought it'd be fun to think happy thoughts about the past. Happy thoughts!
While listening to the most recent Lookout Landing Podcast, a thought came to mind. Jeff and Mathew were discussing how it wasn't enjoyable to watch Jamie Moyer pitch. Which naturally got me thinking about Cliff Lee. (My mind works "naturally" in odd ways.)
During his short stint with the Mariners, Cliff Lee was the most enjoyable pitcher to watch that I've ever come across. Felix is awesome. Randy was awesome. But Cliff Lee trumps them. In fact, I don't think it was very close. Lee's combination of quick pitching, great stuff, and pinpoint control was a thing of beauty in his short time with the Mariners. The control is what I remember most vividly.
In my memory, he could throw it exactly where he wanted to during those few months in 2010. His control was unreal. But my sports memory (and memory in general) doesn't always jive with reality, so I figured I'd check to make sure.
My notion was that Cliff Lee was better than umpires this year. The comment has often been made in the past (at least before last season) that when Ichiro strikes out looking the umpire was probably wrong. Well the way I remembered it, the umpire always being wrong when Cliff Lee walked a guy during his Mariners stint.
Alas, It turns out I was wrong.
He walked one guy.
Official statistics tell us Cliff Lee walked six batters during his 13 starts as a Mariner. Or rather he was credited with walking six batters. In fact, most of those were on account of umpire error.
To the PitchFX!
May 16, 2010 vs Tampa Bay (1st Inning)
Batter: Evan Longoria
Notes: Lee's first walk of the year came in his fourth start. That's neat. But the third pitch is a strike. That's less neat.
May 28, 2010 vs Anaheim
Batter: Howie Kendrick (1st Inning)
Notes: While this is incredibly close, the second pitch is in the zone.
Batter: Juan Rivera (4th Inning)
Notes: Here's Cliff Lee's one legitimate walk of the season. All four ball were well below the zone. Also, somehow Cliff Lee walked two batters in one game.
June 2, 2010 vs Minnesota
Batter: Nick Punto (5th Inning)
Notes: I don't know where the first pitch was. Apparently it didn't register and I don't have MLB.tv to check it out. Regardless, the third pitch was a strike and the fifth is borderline. Then again, Cliff, just throw Nick Punto strikes. He's Nick frickin' Punto.
June 29, 2010
Batter: Jorge Posada (2nd Inning)
Notes: The longest at-bat that resulted in a Lee walk, he got squeezed on the decisive eighth pitch.
July 4, 2010 vs Detriot
Batter: Miguel Cabrera (4th Inning)
Notes: The classic 4 pitch, 4 strike walk. Ridiculous.
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Fun side stat - Cliff Lee had zero walks in:
*13 3rd innings.
*13 6th innings.
*12 1/3 7th innings.
*9 1/3 8th innings
*4 9th innings
Cliff Lee ruled.
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All images via Brooks Baseball.