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Blog Entry

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

Posted on: January 23, 2012 10:30 am
 


By Matt Snyder


For the latest installement of this offseason series, let's match up two left-handers who used to be teammates. It's CC Sabathia of the Yankees against Cliff Lee of the Phillies. Both are north of 30 years of age yet still elite pitchers. And both are very handsomely compensated for their skills.

Each player has won one Cy Young ... for the Indians. They were together in Cleveland from 2002 until about midway through the 2007 season. The Indians ended up with the following players after trading these two aces (yes, I know Roy Halladay is technically the Phillies' ace, but Lee is ace-caliber): Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson, Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson.

As an aside, I'll admit that I had a hearty chuckle in putting this one together. There aren't many things better to observe than New York and Philadelphia fans hurling insults at one another.

That being said, this is an obviously tough and very legitimate question. Let's dive in.

The case for Lee

At the age of 29, Cliff Lee turned his entire career around. He's now an elite pitcher. He was 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 2008, en route to a Cy Young award. The next two seasons he had four different zip codes, but was still far above average. In 2011, however, he finally found a home and was back as a Cy Young contender.

Would You Rather Have
For the Phillies in 2011, Lee went 17-8 with a 2.40 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 238 strikeouts in 232 2/3 innings. Perhaps more impressive, however, were his six complete games -- all of which were shutouts, a figure that led the majors. Amazingly, his 42 walks actually marked a regression from the 18 in 2010, but it just goes to show how good Lee's control is.

And then we have the postseason. Lee is 7-3 with a 2.52 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 89 strikeouts in 82 career playoff innings. He has owned the mighty Yankees in three career playoff starts against them. Sabathia, meanwhile, has a 4.81 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in 86 career postseason innings.

Finally, we cannot discount size here. I think the people who go after Sabathia for being "fat" or "out of shape" are misguided -- he's not small, but he's as durable as anyone -- but as the two pitchers get into their mid-30s, I think it would be naive to ignore the possibility that Lee will age much better.

The case for Sabathia

Carsten Charles Sabathia has proven himself one of the biggest workhorses in baseball for the past five seasons. It would be unheard of to expect 240 innings in a season from most pitchers in the majors, but that is Sabathia's average from 2007-2011. There is no pitcher in baseball who better places the burden of carrying the entire pitching staff than Sabathia.

He gets the job done in numbers, too. He has five straight top five finishes in Cy Young voting. Last season, the big man went 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 230 strikeouts in 237 1/3 innings. He was also tasked with facing the rugged AL East in one of the best hitters' parks in the majors (Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia is also a hitters' park, but not near as drastic as Yankee Stadium).

The salaries -- which are gigantic -- are a wash.

Sabathia is 31 while Lee is 33, so the age tips the scale slightly in Sabathia's favor.

Our call

This is one of my toughest selections -- they had an indentical 6.9 bWAR last season -- but it's going to be Lee. While Sabathia is younger and has a longer track record of success, Lee has been a bigger shut-down pitcher, especially in the postseason. Now that he's found a long-term home, I expect that to continue.

Fan Vote:



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Comments

Since: Jun 10, 2009
Posted on: January 23, 2012 6:06 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

This is a difficult choice, but I have to go with Sabathia. He is a power pitcher, who also eats pitch counts for lunch. Lee is a great pitcher, do not get me wrong but I would have to go with the hefty lefty on this one.



Since: Nov 20, 2006
Posted on: January 23, 2012 6:00 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

I'll take Lee everytime.  I wouldn't complain if I ended up with Sabathia, but I think on talent alone, Lee is the guy I'd prefer.



Since: Apr 13, 2011
Posted on: January 23, 2012 5:53 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

Looking solely at the pictures, CC is fat and angry while Lee is fit and happy. Take your pick.



Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: January 23, 2012 5:38 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

I would rather have a economic system in baseball that gives small-market teams like Cleveland a chance to keep their stars.



Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: January 23, 2012 5:27 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

Yeah I wouldn't mind either pitcher myself, but I would pick CC over Lee. I know he's a big man, but he is such an excellent athlete. You can pencil in his year every year, no matter where he pitches. Only problem is when he pitches in post season, but still he is slightly more consistent than Lee, in my eye.



Since: Apr 15, 2008
Posted on: January 23, 2012 4:59 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

There's a lot hypothesizing about CC not holding up because of his weight; yet unlike Boomer (David Wells) who was overweight and had a balky back but was otherwise durable nonetheless...the guy who has been far more durable to this point in their careers has been CC.

The skinny guy has the bad back and has had several stints on the DL over the years.

So I'll stick with CC thank you very much on this basis alone...durability...since they are both very good pitchers.

And judging from the Poll...about 3 in 5 people agree.

Take CC 



Since: Nov 21, 2008
Posted on: January 23, 2012 4:53 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

I'm going to go the way of the butler from the movie trading places and say "Why not have both"



Since: Jun 3, 2010
Posted on: January 23, 2012 4:23 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

Apparently there are lots of guys on here that enjoy the "Would You Rather Have..." posts.  I know I do. 

With that said, now, MATT, give me back my "Top 1K" status next to my Superstar rating!  I feel naked without it!

Thank you.
Haha, I have no idea how to do that. I'll get to work, pronto.

Thanks for getting my back.

- Matt



Since: Oct 23, 2006
Posted on: January 23, 2012 4:21 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

Sabathia is going to eat his way out of the league soon..his knees won`t be able to carry all that excess weight.  I sat behind the dugout when the Yankess and Tigers played..it was a chore for CC to makr it to and from the mound..he was really laboring.  Whatever the program says about CCs weight add 50-60 lbs..he is really fat up close.



Since: Nov 6, 2006
Posted on: January 23, 2012 4:05 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

Apparently there are lots of guys on here that enjoy the "Would You Rather Have..." posts.  I know I do. 

With that said, now, MATT, give me back my "Top 1K" status next to my Superstar rating!  I feel naked without it!

Thank you.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com