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: Aug 18, 2009
Posted on: January 23, 2012 3:28 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

And, when that heart does finally explode, you can bet that Hank Steinbrenner will complain that MLB does not use designated fielders.



Since: Dec 6, 2010
Posted on: January 23, 2012 3:27 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

The Indians also had VMart and ManRam and would actually be a player in the Playoffs and ALCS if they could have held it together.  The Yankees, Red Sox, Detroit, Twins and Texas wouldn't be stealing all the headlines, players and WS appearances and wins.  Granted the Twins, Texas and Detroit have no WS wins of late and the Yankees and Red Sox only have '03, '07 and '09 to rest on.  But that is 3 more than the Indians can ever even hope for.  They have let solid ballplayers get away even though one was a headcase and PED user.  That being said I'll take Sabathia because of his reliability and in New York it is way tougher to do anything.  Way more history and expectation from the ownership down to the guy selling peanuts in the stands.  I look for about the same out of Philly this year as last year, another choke which is their pre-eminent history.  Cliff Lee will hang around his average year and Philly gets an early fall vacation again.



Since: Nov 20, 2008
Posted on: January 23, 2012 2:59 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

Sorry that was supposed to read :I would take Lee, but you gotta give old cc credit. He just keeps geting fatter and fatter and more out of shape yet he keeps mowing them down in reg season. It is likely his heart will explode while covering a routine grounder to first, but at least the yankee grounds crew can use his warm up jacket as a tarp for the field....It's difficult to type when you have a 9 year old home with the "flu" sitting on your lap.. 




Since: Nov 20, 2008
Posted on: January 23, 2012 2:56 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

I would take Lee but you gotta give old cc credit. He just keeps geting fatter and fatter and more out of shape yet he keeps mowing them down in reg season. It is likely he heart will explode while covering a routine grounder to first, but at least the yankee grounds crew can use his warm up jacket as a up tarp for the field.



Since: Jun 3, 2010
Posted on: January 23, 2012 2:50 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

Lots of our readers care, as evidenced by the number of comments we've gotten throughout this series.

It's a fun discussion, one of those you could have with a group of friends sitting in a sports bar.

We have plenty of other news and analysis on this site. You should feel free to check those out while ignoring this series if it's not for you. To each his own.

Oh, and thanks a lot for being so polite. We really appreciate it.

- Matt



Since: Jan 6, 2012
Posted on: January 23, 2012 2:44 pm
 

How About Snyder or Rosecrans?

This whole this guy versus that guy is so anal. Who really cares? Is this all that the elite sports media has time to sit around and write about? It's worthless drivel. How about some real reporting or commentary or some kind of insight. By the way, I'd punt on Snyder and Rosecrams and settle for a laxitive, because what a laxitive cures is what both of them are full of.



Since: May 2, 2007
Posted on: January 23, 2012 2:11 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

I would rather have both, and let someone else have laporta, Jackson Brantly Marson Donald Byrson and Carrasco.



Since: Jan 22, 2009
Posted on: January 23, 2012 1:26 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

As a Braves fan, I respect the Phillies alot for how they field their team and the players they have. Even when there was the Halladay vs. Verlander comparison. I took Halladay. In this case, however I have to go with C.C. Sabathia over Cliff Lee. Pitching in Philadelphia is no easy gig. However, pitching in New York in the past few seasons like Sabathia has done and not lost his composure is really amazing. He has to pitch in a division with the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, Evan Longoria, Dustin Pedoria, David Ortiz, and Many other very talented hitters in the AL East and managed to keep his ERA at 3.00. Not to mention he had to carry the bulk of the pitching load because the Yankees 2-5 starters weren't worth mustard. Halladay, Hamels, and Worley all three proved in addition to Lee that having good staff mates helps your numbers because you haven't got to shoulder the whole pitching load like Sabathia had to in New York. So for that reason and plus Sabathia being younger. I have to tip my cap to Sabathia even though it is a real close race and anyone would be fortunate to have either of these players on their team.



Since: Nov 6, 2006
Posted on: January 23, 2012 1:02 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

I'll take Lee, for his pinpoint control, aptitude to keep the ball in the park moreso than Sabathia and his prowess in big games and the playoffs.  No one is perfect in these situations.




Since: Oct 13, 2010
Posted on: January 23, 2012 12:56 pm
 

Would You Rather Have: Sabathia or Lee?

look at the poll again my dude


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