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Why Cliff Lee Is Having a Season To Remember

While most of the media attention is going towards Ubaldo Jimenez’s quest for 25 wins and Josh Johnson’s goal of a sub-2 ERA, everyone is overlooking the historic year Cliff Lee is having.

Lee’s season is easy to overlook, especially in the “Year of the Pitcher.” The lefty only has 10 wins, which is well behind the league leaders.

Lee didn’t start his 2010 campaign ideally, as he started the year on the 15-day DL due to an abdominal strain. His time with the Mariners was limited and on July 9 the Texas Rangers traded for the ace.

He has a rock solid 2.44 ERA, but that number isn’t as eye popping as Josh Johnson’s 1.96 nor Adam Wainwright’s 2.07.

Lee’s 126 strikeouts is impressive considering he missed a month, but he is barely in the top 10 in the AL.

So, what makes Cliff Lee’s season so special?

To start things off, the former Cy Young winner has pitched seven complete games. In addition, he has two games where he has pitched nine innings, but due to lack of run support, the games ended in extras. In his 19 starts, Lee has pitched 155 innings. If you do the math, that is more than eight innings per start.

Let’s put that stat in perspective. CC Sabathia, who has a reputation of being a workhorse, averages 6.2 innings per start. Let that sink in for a while. The Rangers bullpen basically gets every 5th day off. In my opinion the workload that Lee is enduring this year deserves not only Cy Young consideration, but also MVP consideration.

Lee is also leading the majors in WHIP, with a microscopic .916. If he keeps up his historic pace, his WHIP would be ranked 9th all time for a lefty in a single season. Four of the marks ahead of him happened before 1915.

Now, here is a mind blowing number.

Lee’s walks per nine innings is a microscopic .5. Yes, you read that right, .5. Now, I’m not a math major, but that means he gives up a walk every 18 innings. His .5 walks per nine innings is the second lowest since 1880! Ironically, the only other play to beat him over that span is Carlos Silva, who in 2004 walked .4 batters per nine innings. He currently ranks first all time among lefties in that category.

As you can see, Lee has had historic control over the strike zone this season. He has also been striking out batters at a respectable rate of 6.9 per nine innings. So, where does his strikeouts per walk rank him in the history books?

Well, let’s just say his strikeouts per walk ratio is as impressive as Barry Bonds’s 73 home run season (minus the performance enhancers).

Lee strikes out fourteen batters per walk. Let’s put that stat in perspective. The record in a single season is 11. Only two other pitchers have had their ratio in the double digits. So, not only will Lee set the record, he would demolish it.

While there is still plenty of baseball left to be played, Lee is on pace to have one of the best seasons by a left-handed pitcher in baseball history. A couple of bad outings can easily destroy his quest for history, but let’s just keep in perspective what Cliff Lee is doing this season. 

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The True Victim of the Steroid Era: Albert Pujols

As a diehard Cubs fan, I know firsthand how good Albert Pujols is.

Every summer, King Albert punishes the Cubs and every other NL Central team. He is arguably the most consistent player in baseball today. He has been an All-Star in all but one of his years in the majors. He has finished top five in MVP voting in all but one of his years as a pro, winning it three times.

The damage caused by the steroid era is unfixable. Records and numbers were inflated drastically as players began cheating left and right. Everyone was a victim, from old-timers, to clean players, and last but not least, the fans.

The biggest victim of all is the King himself, Albert Pujols.    

It all started his rookie year. In 2001, Albert won the Rookie of the Year honors while batting .329, hitting 37 home runs, and driving in 130 runs all as a 20 year old. He finished fourth in the MVP ballot. The winner that year was Barry Bonds, who, as it’s widely assumed, took steroids.

The second man on the MVP ballot was Slammin Sammy, who has been linked to performance enhancing drugs.

The third man was Luis Gonzalez. Gonzalez had an interesting year, hitting 57 home runs and driving in 142 runs. With the exception of that season, Gonzalez had one season in his whole career where he hit more than 30 home runs, and he hit 31 that year. To me, that’s very suspicious.

In 2002 and 2003, King Albert finished second in the MVP voting, both years to Barry Bonds. In 2004 Albert finished third in the MVP voting, the winner being Barry Bonds.

Adrian Beltre was second in the voting, but he had a very suspicious season, comparable to Luis Gonzalez’s 2001 year.

In 2004, Beltre hit 48 home runs and had a batting average of .334. Not including 2004, Beltre has only gone above 25 home runs once, in 2007, when he hit 26. Also, not including 2004, Beltre has only one season where he has batted above .280, and that was in 2000(he is batting .333 so far this year). To me, that raises lots of question marks.

Finally, in 2005, justice was served, and King Albert won his first MVP. In 2006 Albert was second in the MVP voting to Ryan Howard. Howard has been consistent with his numbers and has not been linked to performance enhancing drugs, so he won fair and square.   In 2007, Albert had an off year and finished ninth in the voting. In 2008 and 2009, Albert won back to back MVP awards, and in 2010, he is working toward a three-peat.

In my opinion Albert Pujols should have seven, yes seven, MVP awards, which would make him the all-time leader in MVPs (Barry Bonds has seven). However, to assume Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Luis Gonzalez, and Adrian Beltre all used performance enhancing drugs might be unfair. Just because Luis Gonzalez and Adrian Beltre had one great year and were never able to duplicate it doesn’t mean they used performance enhancing drugs.

In addition, you can’t go back and take away MVP awards, but, hypothetically speaking, let’s say we can. I’ll let you be the judge. How many MVPs should Albert Pujols have?

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Is Alfonso Soriano a Future Hall of Famer?

History will look back at Alfonso Soriano in many ways.

Some will view him as having one of the most dominating combinations of power and speed to ever play the game. Others, mostly Cubs fans, will view him as one of the biggest overpaid players in baseball history.

So, I raise the question, is Soriano a Hall of Famer?

Of course, right now, it’s too early to tell. He still has four years left in his contract, and he will be 38 years old at contract’s end.

Soriano’s  current numbers are not Hall of Fame worthy. He has a career batting average of .278, a total of 308 home runs, and 813 runs scored.

His power numbers are respectable, but nothing great.

Soriano has also stole 261 bags, hit 356 doubles, and has crossed home plate 909 times.

Soriano has about four and a half years to increase his numbers.

I project Soriano to retire with at least 350 home runs, 2,250 hits, 1,200 RBI, 1,200 runs, and 300 steals. While they may not appear to look like Hall of Fame numbers let’s dig a little deeper.

Based on my projections, he will be the seventh member of the 300-300 club. A club that includes Hall of Famers to the likes of Willie Mays, Andre Dawson Bobby Bonds.

Soriano will also be the third member of the 350-300 club and the fifth member of the 2,000-300-300 club. 

Back in 2001, Soriano won the Rookie of the Year Award with the Yankees. Along with being a seven time All-Star and winning the MVP in 2004.

Soriano’s list of accomplishments doesn’t end there.

He made the All-Star team three times as a second basemen and four times as an outfielder. He has won the Silver Slugger Award four times and has made the playoffs five times—including two trips to the Fall Classic.

More impressively, Soriano has had four seasons where he has gone 30-30.

Now, the key stay, in my opinion, that could make Soriano Hall of Fame worthy is his membership in the 40-40 club.

In the history of the game, only four players have achieved 40-40 status: Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano.

However, what do the other three members of the 40-40 club have in common?

They all have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs! If you’re linked to performance enhancing drugs, all your records should be tarnished whether or not you where using them at the time, in my opinion.

There are still lots of “ifs” and “buts” on whether or not Soriano is Hall of Fame quality.

But, if he plays four more seasons, stays healthy, and puts up average numbers, he should be able to produce along the lines of my earlier predictions.

In his prime, Soriano had the best combination of speed and power in the history of the game, and because of that, I think he deserves to go to the Hall of Fame.

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MLB: Midseason Fantasy Baseball Pick Ups

Stats as of July 24th ,2010 courtesy of ESPN.


1st Basemen

Gaby Sanchez   

41.9% owned in ESPN Leagues

Sanchez can be a good backup 1st baseman in most leagues, putting up respectable numbers, .302/.366/.470. After a hot June where he batted .375, Sanchez has cooled down in July.

I would recommend to start Sanchez when the Marlins are playing against a lefty. Sanchez bats .361 vs. lefties as opposed to .283 vs. righties. Sanchez doesn’t put up the power numbers you would want from a first basemen, but if your team lacks hitters, I would pick him up.


2nd Basemen 

Neil Walker  

7.1% owned in ESPN Leagues

The youngster doesn’t get much attention because he plays for the lonely Pirates, but lately he has put up good numbers (.314/.353/.463). He has been hot since the All-Star Break. In 33 at bats he has 16 hits, 5 doubles, and 9 RBI.

The thing about Walker is that he is a very situational hitter. He bats .336 at home vs. .241 on the road, not to mention Walker is a righty killer. In 130 at bats against righties, Walker has 44 hits (.338 average). Walker is also a Brewers/Astros killer, combining for 20 hits in 53 at bats against those teams. In a weak year at 2nd base, Walker can be a good pickup.



Starlin Castro   

36.3% owned in ESPN Leagues

The 20 year old is starting to adapt to major league hitting. After batting .310 in May, his first month in the majors, Castro had a mediocre June where he hit .227. Castro has been able to turn things around, batting .388 in July with seven doubles, three triples, a homer, and three stolen bases.

What even more impressive, is the fact he is batting .500 after the break. He should cool down, but his batting average shouldn’t dip below .290. His .308 season batting average is impressive for a 20 year old and his power numbers are going up, but don’t expect much there. If you’re in a keeper league, I would recommend picking him up.


Tyler Colvin   

6.4% owned in ESPN Leagues

Colvin has been a home run machine the past two months. He only hit five home runs in the first 2 months of the season, but has launched 10 homers in June and July, bringing his total to 15. However, his batting average (.264) has dipped since June, thus keeping some fantasy owners away. Big Lou has recently put Colvin in the leadoff spot, so expect batting average to increase.



Brett Myers  

21.8% owned in ESPN Leagues

Myers won’t win you a lot of games, mostly because he plays on the abysmal Houston Astros. Despite that, he is still having a great year, posting a 3.24 ERA. He had a decent June with a 4.24 ERA, but he is having a great July so far, 1.88 ERA.

If you’re going to pick up Meyers, I would try and avoid using him in away starts. His ERA on the road is a respectable 3.87, but no way near his microscopic home ERA of 2.48. Meyers could be traded to a contender at the break, which will immediately increase his value. If you need a spot start, I would recommend Myers.


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