A couple of weeks ago, I authored a post where I explained why Cliff Lee couldn’t continue pitching as well as he had in his first three starts of the season, when he’d allowed two runs and ran a 2/20 BB/K ratio. I was right; in the four starts since, he hasn’t pitched as well – he’s pitched better, walking two men and striking out 24 guys over his last 30 innings of brilliant work.
He didn’t get the win last night, but he tossed another nine inning shutout, and has now thrown 53 2/3 innings and given up five runs. He’s blanked the opponents in four of his seven starts. He’s only allowed 36 baserunners, and he’s left 31 men on base. We could go on and on, because the numbers don’t get any less ridiculous.
Here’s a comparison that might put this into perspective.
Cliff Lee, first seven starts of 2008: 53 2/3 IP, 32 H, 4 BB, 44 K
Orel Hershiser, last six starts of 1988: 55 IP, 30 H, 9 BB, 34 K
You may have heard about that particular stretch of pitching, as Hershiser set the major league record for consecutive scoreless innings during that run. Cliff Lee is pitching at that level right now.
It’s not going to last – that much is obvious, because no one is this good. But while it does, let’s tip our caps to the guy who has put together one of the great pitching stretches in the history of baseball.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.