July 30, 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.

Dodgers Ask About Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee

All I have to say is, thank god!  I believe it’s an encouraging sign that, according to the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers placed a couple calls to the Houston Astros and the Seattle Mariners about the availability of Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee, respectively.

Frankly, there’s no better way for Frank McCourt and the Dodgers organization to overcome the perception that the divorce is having a negative impact on the team’s cash flow then by trading for one of the two biggest names rumored to be on the trading block.  Both guys do have significant salary issues, with Oswalt due $39.5 million over 2 1/2 years (assuming the Dodgers pick up his 2012 option) and Lee is due $4.5 million for the remainder of this season.  Then, of course, there is the price in terms of players both clubs would want in return.

And let’s be realistic, for the Dodgers to make a serious run at a World Series title, they absolutely, positively need a veteran starting pitcher.  I love the up-and-coming tandem of Billingsley and Kershaw along with the surprising duo of Carlos Monasterios and John Ely, but as Bill Shaikin notes, none of these guys are older than 25 and the elder statesman of that quartet is Bills, who was struggled with his confidence in the playoffs and was left off of the NLCS roster by the Dodgers.  And yes, the Dodgers do have Vicente Padilla coming back soon, but while he and Hiroki Kuroda are solid starters, they’re not #1 starters that can make the Dodgers a truly elite team.

In other positive news, Ramon Ortiz has finally left the Dodgers, after being designated for assignment today.  Reliever Justin Miller thankfully takes Ortiz’s spot on the roster.  Miller has a 2.22 ERA in 22 games for the Albuquerque Dukes.

Elymania continues as well, with the rookie starter going 7.1 innings, giving up just four hits, two walks and one earned run on the road in Chicago (his hometown).  Are you kidding me?  The kid threw 98 pitches with 68 of them being strikes.  Ely continues to show excellent discipline and control of his pitches.  Pretty remarkable stuff, and undoubtedly, a lot of the credit for Ely’s development goes to Russell Martin and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.  Unfortunately the Dodgers lost the game due to a complete lack of offense, but Ely’s continued development should not be overlooked.

Roy Oswalt Photo Credit: UPI

John Ely Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2010