With Cliff Lee mounting a comeback, here are the five things we're looking forward to
5 things to look forward to from Cliff Lee's comeback
The offseason is dark and full of terrors. With no Major League action to watch, the winter can be a frightening place, only briefly interrupted by roster moves and Rule 5 Drafts.
But Cliff Lee emerged from these cold, dark shadows on Thursday with Jon Heyman proclaiming that the former Cy Young Award winner, who hasn't pitched since a 2 2/3-IP appearance on July 31, 2014, has been throwing off the mound and looking to make a comeback.
Which means it's time to begin dreaming of what could be for the 37-year-old. And while history tends not to be kind to pitchers approaching 40 and coming off a major arm injury, there are also plenty of pitchers who have continued to dominate in their later careers. Here are the ten best seasons by a starter older than 37 as ranked by ERA+:
With history giving us hope, here are the five things we can look forward to as Lee mounts his return:
There are few pitchers who have shown the kind of command and control that Lee has demonstrated. The left-handed hurler has had the lowest walks per nine in four separate years, and his career 3.93 strikeout per walk rate is the 7th-highest all-time among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings.
But not only did Lee not walk anyone, he could hit the catcher's glove like the ball was attached to fishing wire and it just needed to be reeled in. According to Bill James, pitchers only hit their spots about 10 percent of the time. With Lee, that number seemed to be about 90 percent.
Given that his disappearance could have been while he upgraded his consciouness into a new synthetic robot body, he could be even better when he returns.
Gold glove defense
Not gold glove as in spectacular. But as in "This glove must be very heavy as if it's made of gold, so it only makes sense to conserve your energy."
Only four Cleveland Indians have won the Cy Young: Gaylord Perry in 1972 and then three active pitchers in C.C. Sabathia (2007), Lee (2008) and Corey Kluber (2014). Why wouldn't you want to watch them square off? Even better -- it could be done in a three-way round robin cage match tournament.
Sadly, C.C. Lee is now with the Seibu Lions in the NPB, but maybe he could be "loaned" back as the final boss that must be defeated. I dunno, just spitballing here.
Before Jake Arrieta swiped second base in October's Wild Card Game against the Pirates, the last pitcher to steal a base in the postseason was Cliff Lee in 2009. In fact, only five pitchers have ever stolen a base in the postseason, with John Smoltz pacing the class with three.
Not only did Lee take one in October, but he's also swiped two bases during the regular season, putting him only two behind current active leader Zack Greinke. While only six players aged 37 or older stole at least one base last year, with Ichiro leading the way with 11, we'd have to assume that would only work in Lee's favor. After all, if he made it to first base, no pitcher would give his lead any thought.
Closing the time loop
Perhaps most importantly, though, Lee could finally close the rift in space-time that was created on June 27, 2002. On that day, Lee was part of a package of prospects including Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore that the Expos sent to the Indians in exchange for Bartolo Colon.
Quantum theorists have pointed to this momentous occasion as to why the Expos moved to Washington; how Colon manages to continue succeeding despite throwing 90 percent fastballs that sit in the mid-80s; how Phillips dominates economic theory; how Sizemore had his own comeback in 2014 and how Adele manages to break your heart every time she releases a new song.
The only hope for all things to be put right? For the entire trade to be made again -- which will be no easy feat considering that Phillips is on the Reds, and Colon, Sizemore and Lee all free agents. But it must be done. For the good of the time space continuum.