(Statistics as of 9/23/08)This year's probable AL Cy Young winner was available off the waiver wire in many leagues in the beginning of the year. Lee entered the year fighting for his job after an injury-plagued and ineffective 2007 in which he ended up in the minors. Since he won the fifth starter job in spring training, he has led the AL in wins (22), winning percentage (.88), and ERA (2.54), and is second in innings (223.1), WHIP (1.11), and complete games (4). He has allowed just 12 home runs after giving up 105 in his first 742 major league innings. I scout these pitchers personally, recording their velocity, pitch selection and motions by watching their games. I use the standard 20-80 scouting scale to rate pitchers. These velocities are suggestive and not determinant of a pitch's rating. For example, a 75 MPH curveball might rank as a 60 because of its movement and/or deception. Please feel free to post your thoughts below on the pitcher or the column. 80 Outstanding (96+ MPH fastball, 88+ MPH slider, 82 MPH curveball)
Rating: %Thrown: Fastball 60 55 Curveball 55 15 Slider 55 10 Changeup 65 20 Control 70 Delivery 65 Composure 75Lee has always had above-average stuff, especially for a left-hander. His fastball runs from 89-92 MPH and touches 93-94 on occasion. Lee's 80-85 MPH changeup is his secret weapon, as he releases it with the same arm speed as his fastball. It doesn't have a lot of movement, but induces a lot of weak popops with its late action. Lee also has an 85-86 MPH slider and an 85 MPH sinker or cutter. Lee has grown in several ways this year. He improved his offseason conditioning, leading to a better and more consistent fastball. Lee had a reputation for stubbornness, as he tended to pound right-handed hitters high and inside regardless of the results. He didn't mix his off-speed pitches into his game plan despite the entreaties of the Indians coaches. As a strikeout/flyball pitcher, he tended to run up high pitch counts early. Lee has been much more aggressive in 2008, dropping his pitches per inning from 16.8 in 2006 and 17.0 last year to a very economical 14.7. His G/F ratio is a dramatically improved 1.39. The Indians have turned 26 double plays behind him - more than 2006 and 2007 combined. While Lee still comes inside and in to right-handers with his fastball, he is also locating it well all over the strike zone. His curveball is just slow enough to be a surprise, and he is cautious with making mistakes with it. Lee's slider and sinker have also helped him improve his G/F ratio. Another obvious improvement has been Lee's confidence. He wastes no time in between pitches, putting hitters on the defensive. Aggressive pitchers are able to get away with more mistakes, as they make the opposition adapt to them. Lee's motion was always fundamentally sound, as he distributes the stress of his delivery well throughout his body. The old saw is that left-handers take longer to develop, but the best lefthanders of the past 10 years (CC Sabathia, Johan Santana, Mark Buehrle, Andy Pettitte, Scott Kazmir) have developed quickly. Baseball Reference.com's page on Lee isn't optimistic about his career development (Darren Oliver?), but those projections lean heavily on his poor 2007. I think Erik Bedard, despite his 2008 struggles, is a good comparison. ---------------- Radar Love: Heat in the last week: 94-98: Felix Hernandez in Oakland on September 19th.
Article first appeared 9/28/08