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Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Cliff's statistic-Lee significant

This summer, the NBA’s biggest story was the signing of free agents to form a “Big 3” in Miami. This winter, it’s a baseball team’s turn to make news with the most noteworthy decision this offseason.

Cliff Lee
With the agreement of Cliff Lee, the Philadelphia Phillies have one of the most formidable groups of top-line pitchers in major league history.

Consider that of the eight active pitchers with the highest career winning percentage, the Phillies now have three of them -- Roy Halladay (first), Roy Oswalt (fifth), and Lee (eighth).

Over the last three seasons, four pitchers have pitched to an ERA below 3.00 and thrown at least 650 innings. Two of those who could be called ultimate workhorses are Lee and his soon-to-be teammate, Halladay.

Since 2008, Lee ranks second in the majors in both WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio, fifth in innings pitched and seventh in ERA. He also ranks second in that span in Wins Above Replacement, a metric charted by that evaluates pitchers based on their Fielding Independent Pitching statistics (in other words, who had the best combination of strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed). Who ranks first? Halladay.

Looking deeper at starting rotations, we can apply a stat charted by known as Adjusted ERA+. This compares a pitcher’s ERA to his league’s ERA, adjusting slightly for the ballpark in which he primarily pitched.

In 2010, Lee, Halladay, Oswalt, and Cole Hamels each posted an ERA+ of 130 or better for their respective teams. Should they duplicate that in 2011, they would be only the third team since 1920 to have four pitchers qualify for the ERA title, each with an ERA+ of 130. The others are the 1942 Detroit Tigers (Al Benton, Tommy Bridges, Hal Newhouser, Virgil Trucks, and Hal White), and the 1997 Braves (Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Denny Neagle, and John Smoltz)

Additionally, the Phillies have four pitchers in their starting rotation who have done something of a dominating nature in their postseason careers. Halladay has a no-hitter to his credit. Oswalt has won an LCS MVP award, while Hamels was LCS and World Series MVP in the same postseason. Lee doesn’t have any awards, but started his postseason career with seven straight wins. Combined, the four are 20-8 in postseason play. They may have a few more Octobers in their future.