Rangers

Will Cliff Lee Fit with the Texas Rangers?

| by Hardball Times

Earlier today, in the wake of the Cliff Lee trade, I took a look at what Cliff Lee's 2010 season would look like as a Ranger. I concluded his first half ERA would be slightly higher, at 2.49 (versus his current 2.34 mark), while his second half would still be a solid 3.13 all whilst noting that his BB/9 seemed obscenely low and somewhat unsustainable going forward. Thus, rather than look merely at what Cliff Lee might do for the rest of 2010 based on his first half numbers, I think it would be much more interesting to see how Cliff Lee would pitch based on his career peripherals or his current peripherals adjusted to his career walk rate.

First, let's quickly recap the relevant adjustment stats:

o Park Factor Adjustment (PFA): According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington inflates run scoring by 8%. As the Rangers only play half of their games at home, I am going to use a park factor adjustment of +4%.

o Defensive Adjustment (UZR/INN): The Rangers have a team UZR (through 07/09/2010) of +20.5 over 763.1 innings of defensive play. That equates to a UZR/INN adjustment of about +0.0269. Over 105 IP, the Rangers' defense would prevent about 2.82 runs compared to the "league average" defensive posture.

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o Innings Pitched (IP): In part two of my earlier Translating Cliff Lee post, I pegged Cliff Lee with 105 IP for the rest of the season, or 15 more starts at an average of 7.0 IP per start. I'm going to stick with this number.

And now, on to the show.

PART III: What Kind Of ERA Can We Expect For Cliff Lee Pitching For The Rangers After The All-Star Break Using His Three Year Peripherals?

For his career, Cliff Lee (the pitcher, not the early 1900's outfielder) has an xFIP of 4.24 and FIP of 3.84. Clearly, Lee's xFIP has been inflated heavily by early career struggles with the Indians and a look at his 2002-2007 numbers reveals almost an entirely different pitcher than his 2008-2010 numbers. Especially given the way he is pitching in 2010, using Lee's three year peripheral data seems more relevant and indicative of his true talent level.

Over the past 3 calendar years, Cliff Lee has posted a 7.09 K/9, 1.41 BB/9 and 43.2% GB% , which is good for a 3.61 xFIP (top 20 amongst all major league pitchers who have logged at least 200 IP in that time span). Using this 3.61 xFIP as the context neutral baseline, Cliff Lee would allow 42.12 runs (RA) over 105 IP.

First, adjusting this figure for park factors, we multiply Lee's context neutral RA by 1.04, yielding a park-adjusted RA of 43.80. Next, to account for the quality of the Rangers' defense, we need to subtract 2.82 runs from the park-adjusted RA. Doing so, we get a park/defense adjusted RA of 40.98.

The above results in a three-year-peripheral-based 2010 second half ERA projection of 3.51.

This figure is more than a full run above the 2.34 ERA he's sported in Seattle thus far, but it is still a plus-quality over/under ERA and worth quite a bit. Personally, I think Justin Smoak's projected future career is a bit overblown (I've compared him to Derrek Lee a la 2007 countless times), so I do not particularly think the Rangers "overpaid" to rent Lee, who will also net Texas compensation picks if offered arbitration (Lee will likely reject an arbitration offer in favor of a lucrative multi-year contract). Still, even Lee's three year peripheral data does not satisfactorily capture his 2010 performance. This data pegs Lee with a low-7 K/9, despite the fact that his swinging strike rate is up over a full point (a 13.75% change) compared to 2008 and 2009, and a 43.2% GB%, which is 2% points higher than it is now or was last season.

PART IV:

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