The Cleveland Indians have had many great pitchers in the 100+ year history of the ballclub. Consider the following roster of Hall of Famers and all stars:
Addie Joss, Cy Young, Stan Covaleski, Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, Sudden Sam McDowell, Wes Ferrell, Mel Harder, Luis Tiant, Bert Blyleven, Herb Score, Gaylord Perry, Jim Perry, Mike Garcia, George Uhle, Anatole Stanko. What do all of these great Indians pitchers have in common? All of them won 20 games at some point in their careers. Not one of them was ever 20-2.
In fact, you have to look long and hard to find anyone in the history of the game who was ever 20-2. Yet 20-2 is exactly what Cliff Lee is tonight after tossing yet another masterpiece, this time a 5-hit shutout of the division-leading Chicago White Sox. In the midst of a miserable summer on the shores of Lake Erie, Cliff Lee has single-handedly made his team watchable by putting together one of the finest seasons that the Major Leagues has ever seen.
Here are a few impressive statistics from Lee's remarkable run.
-His won-loss percentage of 91% currently ranks him #6 all time for a single season.
-In 27 starts, Lee has walked exactly 27 batters.
-His ERA is a MLB best 2.32
-He has been getting better as the season wears on. He went 5-0 with a 1.86 ERA in August. In his last ten starts, he is 9-0.
-His 20 wins account for 30% of the Indians' paltry total of 66 in 2008.
-He has given up a miserly 8 home runs all season.
Not bad for a guy who spent much of 2007 in the minor leagues after being demoted for much needed mechanical and attitude adjustments.
What's different? Lee cites mental toughness and a strict, mayonnaise-free diet as major contributors to his success. When asked whether he made the switch to Miracle Whip, he replied curtly: Miracle Whip is mayonnaise.
Lee is the first Indians pitcher to win 20 games since Gaylord Perry posted a 21-13 mark in 1974. Perhaps most amazing of all: when Perry won game #20 that year, he too pitched a five-hit shutout. How mysterious the Sports Gods are. Man, I love baseball.
From the beginning of the year Cliff Lee has been the very best pitcher in the major leagues, and he should be a cinch to win the Indians' second consecutive Cy Young award. A lot can happen in one month, but with the way Lee has pitched, I don't forsee a major letdown.
McBone congratulates you, Cliff Lee, for your remarkable and historic 2008 season.