Lee throws strikes, should leave M's

June, 14, 2010
6/14/10
2:11
PM ET
Jeff Passan on Cliff Lee, who figures to be our second-most famous pitcher until he's traded:

    The team that acquired him during the offseason, the Seattle Mariners, are a disaster – 24-39, worse than every team but the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates – and GM Jack Zduriencik stands to reap plenty more from trading Lee than he would from the two draft picks received via free agency.

    “I don’t care how much he likes draft picks,” one executive said this week. “They cost money to sign, and he can get established players through a trade.

    --snip--

    It’s that time of year, and the only thing holding back …

    1. Cliff Lee from extracting a king’s ransom is the plethora of other pitchers available at this deadline derby. None is quite like Lee, of course, and those in his neighborhood make more than his $9 million salary. In other words, he is the perfect mercenary: cheap (relatively), attached to two draft picks (for sure), playoff proven (check out last year) and unfazed by anything (remember this?) .

    Lee is already doing his best Dennis Eckersley circa ’90 impersonation. In 73 1/3 innings as Oakland closer, Eckersley walked four and struck out 73. Lee’s line this season: 68 2/3 innings, 4 walks, 60 strikeouts. No pitcher has ever finished a season with better than Bret Saberhagen’s 11-to-1 strikeout-to-walkout ratio in 1994, and just five in the modern era have been better than 8-to-1: Saberhagen, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling and … Ben Sheets.

The Mariners obviously should trade Clifton Phifer Lee, and he's just as obviously the most attractive pitcher who's presumably going to be available this summer (and there are going to be a lot of them, as Passan notes). Really, I just want this opportunity to mention that Lee has a 15-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and the record is 11-to-1 and nobody else has ever finished better than 10-to-1.

I mean, this is uncharted territory.

Or not. Of course Lee probably won't finish the season at 15-to-1, or close to 15-to-1.

Could he break Saberhagen's record, though? Yeah, I think he could. Because it's more than just this season's nine starts. In Lee's last nine starts last season, he struck out 51 and walked four. So it's possible that Lee has crossed into some strange land that's been previously explored only by Saberhagen. Or perhaps by no one at all.

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