Everything you need to know about Cliff Lee, you could learn from his postgame interview with Brad Adam.
Fresh off another win - another complete game win, his third in a row, this one coming in Yankee Stadium in a game that lasted just 150 minutes - all Lee could talk about was his second inning walk of Jorge Posada, and how he struggled with falling behind in the count.
Lee threw 79 strikes, by the way. 79 of his 115 pitches were strikes, for a 69% rate that's well above average. Indeed, he didn't get ahead as often as usual, and he had a tough time getting to many two-strike counts, but understand what we're talking about, here. Lee wasn't bad. In terms of hitting the zone and getting ahead, Lee was fine. He just wasn't Cliff Lee. Cliff Lee didn't pitch up to his own standards, and the result is that he was less than pleased with his effort, an effort that earned him a complete game win.
This is how a winner talks. The fan in me wants to tell Cliff, hey, lighten up, you did great. You beat the Roy Halladay stay so effective and so in control? It's not because they settle. It's because they analyze each and every one of their mistakes in an attempt to make sure they don't happen again. They're always pushing themselves to get better. It sounds so simple, so high school, but it's true, and it's a rare quality in a person. For every goal that a star like Lee reaches, he sets another one. A higher one.. Savor it. But true stars are never happy with anything less than their best. You know how guys like Lee and
Cliff Lee is everything that is right with baseball. I'm disappointed he won't get his ring here, but I hope he finds one. He's earned it. He earns it every single day.
- Lee's right, for the record - he really wasn't at his sharpest, or anywhere close. Though he threw a lot of strikes, he did have a hard time missing bats, and he went 1-0 on 15 guys, 50% more than usual. Nick Swisher took him deep a couple times, there were a number of long fly balls and liners, and those hits in the ninth have to count for something.
But honestly, I'm kind of glad to see it. Even when he allowed eight runs to the Padres, you could still tell he was an exceptional pitcher. Tonight he looked human. And it's good to see the human side, because it serves as a reminder. This way, when Lee gets traded, we won't look at it and think, wow, the had a flawless pitcher and they let him leave. It takes away some of the hurt.
It's a difficult feeling for me to express. I guess it's that a start like this helps pull me back to being more rational. As you might've heard on the podcast, Matthew and I have both kind of felt like holy crap re-sign re-sign re-sign it doesn't matter what it costs just get it done. Neither of us wanted to entertain the thought of a Mariners team without Cliff Lee on it. I still don't, but a start like this helps keep my brain from going completely insane. A start like this whispers in my ear "well he does turn 32 in August, and he's going to cost a whole heap of money." There are reasons against trying to bring him back. A start like this helps bring them into view, if only a little bit.
Of course, I don't actually know if I want that.
- I hate that I'm here, talking about Cliff Lee's trade as an inevitability. I hate it. Once again, we're faced with the prospect of this having been Lee's last start in a Mariner uniform. This has been such a colossal waste. Lee could bring back an outstanding return and 2010 will still never feel right. Look what the Mariners have. Look what they've done with it.
It kills me, too, because even though the M's are 32-44 and own one of the worst records in baseball, we saw what they did tonight, and we know they have Felix going tomorrow. This is a mediocre team that, even as built, would have terrific odds of making a run were they to advance to the playoffs. I know that's more a criticism of the playoff structure than it is praise of the team, but who knows what could've happened? These M's were built to get over the short, steep slope. They just couldn't get over the longer, shallower one.
- John Isner threw out the ceremonial first pitch today. A comparison, using AP images:
The 6'9 Isner is more handsome, but the resemblance is striking. If Young played a sport requiring him to be athletic, they could be twins.
Saving Isner for a Yankees/ game would've been more appropriate, but I guess you have to strike while the iron is hot.
- The difference between Mike Blowers before the game and Mike Blowers during the game is like night and day. Before the game, Blowers talks like he's relaying his favorite anecdote from a recent vacation to a friend for the first time. There's energy, there's tempo, and there's enthusiasm, like he just can't wait any longer for the game to get going. Then the game gets going and he shuts down, often sounding as if it's already been five hours and he'd rather be somewhere else. Occasionally one of the Daves will introduce a topic that gets his motor running, but I'm pretty sure they do this deliberately to keep Blowers from falling asleep. Those broadcast booths are open to the air, and for all I know Blowers is one of those people that rolls around when he sleeps. It's a long way down.
- This probably deserves a post of its own, but remember last year when we remarked on how Russell Branyan had started making more frequent contact, allowing for a career resurgence? It's continued. Branyan's contact rate of 71% so far is the highest of his life, and his strikeout rate, in turn, is the lowest it's ever been. Russell Branyan is 34, but unlike most 34 year olds, Russell Branyan might've gotten better.
- It would be easy to say that Franklin Gutierrez's solo homer in the fourth inning was a cheapie, as it only squeaked into the first row in left-center field. But while the ball didn't fly a great distance, what the box score leaves out is that the pitch was a high inside fastball that Guti practically fisted out of the ballpark. Here's the thing about Guti. Some hitters are strong, and consistently make good contact. These are the best hitters in baseball. Other hitters make consistently good contact but have less strength, and still other hitters have good strength but don't consistently make good contact. Guti belongs in the third group. He doesn't translate bat speed to ball speed as well as most of the stars, but he has a very strong swing. Strong enough to muscle the occasional inside fastball into the seats when he hits it just right. It's easy to forget how hard he can hit a ball when it finds the sweet spot. Which means he's overdue for one of those 440-foot moonshots.
- In the third inning, Michael Saunders did a good job of stretching a shallow fly ball into a double. That was good baserunning. Then, when Ichiro followed with a single up the middle, Saunders ran to third, failed to pick up Lee Tinsley, and paused before continuing on to home plate. That was bad baserunning. Saunders scored anyway, though, and the only reason I bring this up is because how often have we actually gotten to experience the Bad Process/Good Outcome quadrant this season? It feels like so much has been the complete opposite. Saunders screwed up, and we were still rewarded. That's fresh.