On Wednesday night,
Lee's strong performance on Friday night invites the question of whether projection systems are underestimating him for 2010. Any structured system is going to take into account Lee's last three years at a minimum, and many make use of his entire career to date. As you can see, the most well-known systems churn out fairly conservative estimates of Lee's 2010 effectiveness:
• PECOTA (
If there is a problem with these figures, it is that they may be including data that is irrelevant to Lee's 2010 potential. In 2007, after two seasons of above-average pitching, Lee fell apart, en route to a 6.29 ERA and a demotion to Triple-A in July. Upon his return in September he barely made an impression, logging just four mopup appearances, not nearly enough for his 6:1 K/BB or 70% strike percentage to have any meaning. When 2008 opened, however, Lee was a new pitcher, throwing more first-pitch strikes than he ever had before, with the resulting positive counts putting him in complete control of at-bats. He went on to win the AL Cy Young Award and then followed it up with a strong 2009 season that entrenched him in the top tier of MLB starters. From 2002 through 2007, Lee had a 4.64 ERA, struck out a bit more than two men for every one he walked, and walked about three per game. In the two seasons since, he has a 2.89 ERA, nearly five strikeouts for every man walked, and just 1.5 walks per game. Lee has also sharply increased his ground ball rate at the expense of fly balls, making it harder for hitters to generate power against him.
The two pitchers, one pre-2008, one since, share little but a name. To factor in that 2007 performance in estimating what Lee can mean to the Mariners in 2010 is a bit like factoring in
Consider a pitcher who has been connected to Lee in many ways over the past year:
No, there's a strong argument that Lee's projection should be based almost entirely on his 2008 and 2009 seasons, and when you project off that, and factor in his new, pitcher-friendly home ballpark and the quality defense behind him, you find a pitcher who is going to be very, very difficult to score upon. For the past two seasons, Lee's
With Lee and