Strike One -- Donut Shop Dept.
There's a word that comes to mind for the month of June that Cliff Lee just had: "Insane."
So how insane was it? By popular demand, I had to check. So here ya go:
• Over his five starts (all wins), Lee gave up one run in 42 innings. How many starting pitchers have had a month like that since Orel Hershiser's historic September in 1988 (55 innings, zero runs)? That would be none.
• They always tell you when you take the field to drive in more than you let in. But not many pitchers actually follow that advice over an entire calendar month. Well, Lee was so zoned in that he did in fact knock in more runs in June (two) than he allowed (one).
Of the seven National League starting pitchers since 1912 to have an ERA of 0.21 or better in a calendar month (with at least 40 innings pitched), Lee is only the third to drive in more runs than he let in.
The others: Dwight Gooden in Sept., 1985 (one unearned run allowed, an amazing seven RBIs) and Fernando Valenzuela during his Fernando-maniacal month of April, 1981 (one run allowed, two RBIs).
• More on that topic from ESPN's fabulous Stats and Info crew:
Batting average of Cliff Lee in June: .250
Batting average of the hitters Lee faced in June: .152
• My friend Kevin Cooney challenged me to look this one up: The Marlins have won three games all month (3-23). Lee has won five games by himself (5-0). That's not unprecedented, but it's still downright incomprehensible.
There have been three other teams in the last half-century that won three games or fewer in a full calendar month (with at least 26 games played). They all suffered the same fate as the 2011 Marlins:
1988 Orioles (1-22 in April): outwon by 74 different pitchers, led by Dave Stewart (6-0).
1982 Twins (3-26 in May): outwon by 17 different pitchers, led by four with five wins (Ron Guidry, Valenzuela, Scott McGregor, LaMarr Hoyt).
1972 Rangers (3-23 in September): outwon by 24 different pitchers, led by three with six wins (Luis Tiant, Woodie Fryman, Rudy May).
2011 Marlins (3-23 in June so far): outwon by six different pitchers, led by Lee and Justin Verlander (both 5-0).
The Marlins, luckily for them, can still escape this note -- but only if they win their last two games in Oakland.
• The Phillies, Lee's team, have been around for 129 seasons. Only two other starting pitchers, in all that time, have had a longer scoreless-inning streak than he's had (at 32 consecutive zeroes) -- Robin Roberts (32 2/3 in 1950) and Grover Cleveland Alexander (41 2/3 in 1911). Since baseball no longer counts fractions of an inning in streaks by starters, Lee is actually tied, technically, with Roberts.
• In September of '88, Hershiser threw five straight shutouts. Since then, Lee is only the sixth pitcher to rip off three in a row. The others: Brandon Webb, Roger Clemens, Bobby Witt, Randy Johnson and David Cone.
• The only other left-hander in that group above was the Big Unit. So just for future reference, you should know that no left-handed starter in the live-ball era has thrown more than three consecutive shutouts. But once upon a time, in the third year of existence of the American League, the immortal Guy "Doc" White threw five in a row for the 1903 White Sox.
• Not sure why I looked this up, but I did. So here goes: Since the last time Lee allowed a run (on June 11), Rick Porcello has allowed 24.
• How many other pitchers have gone 5-0, with an ERA as low as Lee, in any calendar month since the end of World War II? Just five: Hershiser (5-0, 0.00 in Sept., 1988), Cory Lidle (5-0, 0.20 in Aug., 2002), Nolan Ryan (5-0, 0.20 in May, 1984), Valenzuela (5-0, 0.20 in April, 1981) and Mike Witt (5-0, 0.21 in August, 1986).
• Finally, Lee is up to four shutouts already. Seven different TEAMS haven't thrown that many. So as I was saying, that word is: Insane!
Strike Two -- Feeling Blue Dept.
I keep asking myself this: How the heck did the Dodgers wind up in bankruptcy? It's almost impossible. And here's why:
Since Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers, they've never drawn fewer than 3.4 million fans in any season. And how many other teams in baseball can say that? Just one -- the Yankees.
McCourt's team has attracted so many more ticket-buying humans than any other team in his league since he took over that it's mind-boggling that HIS team was the one heading for bankruptcy court this week. Take a look at NL attendance figures since 2004:
In other words, there hasn't been another NL team within 2 million of his Dodgers in attendance in this span. And only three are even within 4 million.
And it's the No.1 team on that list that went Chapter 11 on us.
Strike Three -- Grandiosity Dept.
As my buddies who are Mets fans keep telling me, only the Mets could go 299 games without hitting any grand slams -- and then hit two slams in a span of six hitters Tuesday. Just so you put that in its proper bizarre perspective, the Elias Sports Bureau reports:
• 156 different hitters launched a slam in the time the Mets were hitting no slams.
• The other 29 teams in baseball combined to hit 197 slams in the 22 months and 27 days that the Mets were hitting zero slams.
• And just over the Triboro Bridge, Alex Rodriguez hit five slams all by himself while 66 different Mets were heading to home plate and combining for nada slams.