April 18, 2014

John Ely and Cliff Lee: An Unlikely Duo

One is a Cy Young winner and one has never pitched above Double-A before this season.  But after reading a Bloomberg Sports article on Cliff Lee, there is reason for comparison.

From Bloomberg’s R.J. Anderson:

Lee is averaging a little over seven innings per start, which totals 36.2 innings pitched. He’s struck out 32 batters and walked one. That would be a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 32, which is simply unheard of. The best strikeout-to-walk ratio in baseball history (for pitchers with at least 100 innings in a single season) is 11 – posted by Brett Saberhagen in 1994. Ben Sheets’ 2006 season is the only other case of a double-digit strikeout-to-walk rate for a starting pitcher with at least 100 IP.

Wow.  Saberhagen and Sheets defined what control is all about, and Cliff Lee is on pace to place himself in some elite company.  So outside of Lee, what other starters in the major leagues has a commanding strikeout-to-walk ratio?  After looking at the top 50+ strikeout pitchers in 2010, here are the current leaders:

Pitcher        Strikeouts         Walks         Ks/Walk Ratio

Cliff Lee                   32                        1                       32.00

John Ely                 32                         6                         5.33

Carl Pavano           41                         8                         5.125

Jamie Shields        71                        14                       5.07

Dan Haren              76                        15                        5.06

Now that’s fantastic company for John Ely at this point in the season.  There’s obviously a long, long way to go this year, but given that we’re 29% of the way through the season, it’s worth pointing out how Ely’s success on the mound compares to his fellow starters.

Here’s a little more from A.J. Anderson on Cliff Lee, and his phenomenal strikeout-to-walk ratio:

Aside from Saberhagen and Sheets, Curt Schilling is the only other pitcher to break the 9 K/BB barrier, which is fitting. During Schilling’s later years with the Diamondbacks, ESPN would always joke about whether Schilling’s win total would exceed his walk total. Now, Schilling never actually accomplished the feat, but Lee very well could. In fact, Lee actually has more wins (two) than walks at this moment – and given his performance to date, should have more wins, if not for lousy run support and other factors beyond his control.

Thinking ahead to the trading deadline, what better role model could a young John Ely have than a true ace that is also known for his control?  Food for thought.