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Cliff Lee, Is That You?
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Cliff Lee, Is That You? And Other Notes That Couldn't Wait.
by Asher B. Chancey,
April 25, 2008

So many things have happened in this young week, I don’t feel like waiting until the weekend to talk about them. I've had so many thoughts about baseball this week that I can't even simply post them on the Fan Forum or wait until next week's Weekly Roundup. I have to get them down now, if for no other reason, than for posterity.

1. Jon Garland refuses to strike guys out. On Tuesday, Jon Garland improved his record with his new team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, to 3-2, with six innings during which he gave up eight hits, four earned runs, walked two, and struck out one. For the season, Garland now has – I hope you've seen something else really shocking today that will make this pale in comparison – four strikeouts in 30 innings. In case that doesn't register, let's apply the "multiply by ten" rule. If Jon Garland were to pitch 300 innings this season, he would finish with 40 strikeouts. We may be seeing non-deadball era history being made. Actually, hell, the deadball era guys weren't this crazy.

2. Curtis Granderson is back, and with him, it's the Tigers. Yes, they were playing the Rangers, but through seven innings with Granderson back in the leadoff spot, the Tigers had scored 18 runs, including 11 in the sixth inning. Granderson had been on base three times in five trips during that time, and scored three times while driving in two. A good, fast, powerful leadoff hitter who can actually get on base can change the entire dynamic of a team. The Tigers are back, because the Gran-Gran Man is back, too.

3. Hanley Ramirez might be the best player in baseball. After Tuesday, Hanley Ramirez had seven homeruns, six stolen bases, 17 RBI, and 19 runs scored. He is hitting .349, and his OPS is currently somewhere near 1200. If trading Babe Ruth cursed the Boston Red Sox for the 20th Century, trading Ramirez may end up being what curses these guys for the 21st Century.

4. Next Up In Triple-A, Ryan Howard. I can't remember the last time a former MVP looked so bad, and it wasn't on the down-side of his career. Ryan Howard is currently 28 years old, has won the Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player Awards, and does not look qualified to play Major League Baseball. In 22 games this season, Howard now has 32 strikeouts, which puts him on pace for roughly 230 strikeouts by conservative estimates. Oh, he is also hitting .187 with an OPS somewhere around what it takes to buy an iPhone. Its gotten so bad that Charlie Manuel has had Howard work on his plate patience and on making contact with Pedro Feliz.

5. Oh, here's another brilliant move made by the Blue Jays. Through Thursday, Troy Glaus has eleven doubles in 22 games after having 19 in all of last season. We'll have to get back to you on Scott Rolen after he makes his season debut.

6. Cliff Lee, Is That You?

Through three starts, Cliff Lee had put up some pretty incredible numbers – 3-0, 0.40 ERA, 20 K, 2 walks, one earned run allowed. Surely the bottom was about to fall out on this guy. But on Thursday night, in the second half of a double header against the Royals in Kansas City, Lee needed only 120 pitches to hurl a three hit shutout, striking out nine and walking none. His numbers have gone from great to plainly sick – 4-0, 0.28 ERA, 2 walks, 29 strikeouts. And his rate stats are out of control – nearly 15:1 strikeout to walk ratio. 0.411 WHIP. Nearly a strikeout per inning. And here’s the clincher: his OPS+ currently stands at 1563. Yes, four digits. Yes, closer to 2000 than to 1000. Cliff Lee is out of this world right now. Of course, this being Cliff Lee, he is probably also guaranteed to win the Mark Redman Award for the American League in 2008. But for now, Cleveland fans are truly in for a treat.

7. And Finally, The Big Hurt Returns to Oakland

Personally, I thought Frank Thomas should have stayed in Oakland after the 2006 season, but at the business end of a terrific comeback season Thomas wanted to cash in, and he did so with the Toronto Blue Jays. Well, now Thomas gets to have his cake and eat it, too.

Billy Beane continued to enhance his application for genius status on Thursday by signing the Big Hurt to a one year deal for the league minimum – actually, a prorated share of the league minimum – and Thomas will be an Oakland Athletic, though he will still receive roughly $8 million from the Blue Jays this season.

For Thomas, the news is excellent, because he gets to be paid like a big market star while playing for the team for which he enjoyed his best season out of the last five in 2006. For the Athletics, this news is probably good; if Thomas can put up numbers similar to those he put up with the team two years ago. The only way in which the news could be bad for the Athletics would be if Thomas ended up taking a spot in the starting lineup but not producing. The A's are not a particularly physically talented team, so Thomas batting in the DH spot means that someone else – Jack Cust? – is now playing in the field even though he shouldn't be. If Thomas can't produce, the A's lose on both ends.

But at least they don't have to pay for it.

By the way, for those of you keeping score at home, the Blue Jays are now paying Frank Thomas to play for the Oakland Athletics, and are also paying Reed Johnson (.394 OBP) to play for the Chicago Cubs.

Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at