I have a few things that I want to touch upon right before the All-Star break. Here goes:
- Cliff Lee
Cliff Lee is arguably the best pitcher in the American League and some may even say currently pitching in the game. Sure Ubaldo Jimenez is currently 14-1 with a 2.27 ERA but he has slowed down from his torrid pace to start the season by winning only one of his last three starts and giving up 17 earned runs in 17.2 innings while in his previous 102 innings he only gave up 8 earned runs. Lee on the other hand missed the first month of the season and is 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA for a Seattle Mariners team that has had its shared of troubles this season. So far in 13 starts for the Mariners, Lee has only had two no-decisions, one start of 6.1 innings, three of 7 innings with the remaining 9 starts being of 8 innings (five starts) and 9 innings (four starts). Cliff Lee is what you would call a quality pitcher. He currently leads the A.L. in ERA (2.34), WHIP (0.95) and complete games (5). I would also venture to say that he leads the league in trade rumors. Speaking of which.
Rumors have linked Cliff Lee with two American League teams: The Minnesota Twins and the Tampa Bay Rays. Let me touch on the Twins first. The Twins have not had a pitcher of Lee's caliber since they traded Johan Santana to the Mets in 2008 and have been rumored by Jeff Fletcher of AOL Fanhouse of offering prospects OF Aaron Hicks and C Wilson Ramos to Seattle for Lee. The Cincinnati Enquirer speculated that the Reds would make an offer to Seattle in the form of prospects headlined by 1B prospect Yonder Alonzo, the 2008 first round draft pick for the Reds. Most intriguing has been the statement by Rays owner Stuart Sternberg that money would not be an issue at this year's deadline and there has been a rumored three-team trade that would involve Cliff Lee and Tampa's B.J. Upton. I've always felt that the ideal place for Lee to be traded to was the New York Mets. The combination of Santana and Lee with Pelfrey and Niese make the Mets a favorite to win the Wild Card and make them strong contenders for the N.L. East. Whether or not Seattle trades him remains to be seen. We have an interesting three weeks to go until July 31st.
- Stephen Strasburg
Those that hear me talk about Strasburg feel that I am against the kid succeeding. Not so. I have only felt that the kid has not been able to pitch in any real trouble situations since the organization has had him pitch against sub-standard MLB lineups. Before this week, the only strong lineup that he faced was the Chicago White Sox while he dominated the Pirates and the Royals and was good against the Indians. This week showed me something about him.
Strasburg faced better lineups in the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets. I watched him pitch in the Braves game and came away with the following points of view. The Braves were able to work him to longer pitch counts that other teams by showing patience at the plate. Strasburg only struck out 7 Braves while he averaged 10 K's per game in his previous 4 starts. He also faced his first real trouble spot with bases loaded and no outs in the 6th inning. To be fair, he walked Chipper Jones and gave up a scorching single to Brian McCann but would have had a runner on third with two outs if the shortstop had made the play at short instead of booting the ball. The Braves being a better offensive team, were able to capitalize on the error by scoring 4 runs off of him, of which 3 were earned. Against the Mets he also not as effective by walking 3 and striking out 5 in 5 innings and giving up 2 runs, both earned.
These two starts were more impressive to me since he was able to pitch in and out of trouble and even though he didn't dominate, it showed that he was able to play under pressure in trouble situations. All pitchers get hit and many don't win games. All I wanted to see was how he performed in those situations and he showed me that he could. One last thing about Strasburg.
This whole drama about his not making the All-Star team is ridiculous. He is 2-2 in only 7 starts. There are pitchers that have 9 and 10 wins and did not make the roster. Those players would be more deserving that him at this point. Strasburg has more that enough years to make All-Star teams. Let him earn them as every one else.