Updated: August 16, 2008, 12:00 PM ET

  • Comment
  • Email
  • Share

Getty Images

Brandon Webb, left, and Cliff Lee, right, both added solid starts to their 2008 Cy Young résumés.

Cy Young favorites remain 'grounded'
Cliff Lee and Brandon Webb have a lot in common. For one thing, they keep winning major league baseball games. But while they pitch in different leagues and different time zones and at different levels of the playoff race, the secret to both pitchers' success is keeping the ball on the ground.

On Friday night, Webb allowed only four hits to the Astros. Even more telling: He retired 16 hitters on groundouts. Webb has the best ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio (3.56) among major league starting pitchers; it's hard to hit home runs or blast extra-base hits if you can't get the ball out of the infield. After the game, manager Bob Melvin told the Arizona Republic he thought Webb's sinker was the best he has seen all year. "When the sinker's moving from belly button to knees, it can be a good night," Melvin said. "When you see guys actually having to adjust their swing in mid-swing, it means his ball is kind of unpredictable."

The lefty Lee is also keeping the ball on the ground. Not at Webb's rate, mind you, but Lee has failed to get at least eight ground-ball outs in only five of his starts this year. On Friday, the Indians turned four double plays, and when Lee is on the mound, the Indians' defense seems to play a little bit harder. Asdrubal Cabrera apparently agrees with that assessment. "I always play hard, but with Cliff I bear down more because I know he gets ground balls," Cabrera told reporters, through an interpreter, after Friday's game. Perhaps that's why Lee continues his Steve Carlton-esque season, being responsible for 31 percent of his team's win total.

It's so simple, isn't it? If the defense has a good idea that balls are going to be hit on the ground, they stay more alert. If they're more alert, they're more likely to make the play. The more plays you make, the more you win. Or maybe not. After all Derek Lowe, John Lannan and Ubaldo Jimenez all have GB/FB ratios better than 2.00 -- and they all have losing records. So maybe it's something else that sets Cliff Lee and Brandon Webb apart from the rest of the pack. Maybe it's just that they're both really, really good -- in some unquantifiable way that can't be summed up in a single sentence. And to a fantasy owner, it doesn't really matter "why" these two pitchers are head and shoulders above the rest, it only matters that they are. More importantly, it matters that there aren't any signs that their success is about to change anytime soon. In this case, there aren't.

Past editions: 8/15: Troika of pitchers headed to DL | 8/14: John Maine returns to the mound

Box Score Bits
Melvin Mora went 3-for-4 with four RBIs, and now has 15 RBIs in his past seven games. Mora is also batting .404 in 26 games since the All-Star break. … Going in opposite directions: Carlos Silva started the season 3-0; Francisco Liriano started the season 0-3. Look at them now. Facing off Friday, Silva was tagged for a career-high nine earned runs and now leads the league in losses with 14. Meanwhile, Liriano went seven strong innings, allowing no earned runs, and continues to be dominant in his return from the minors. … A couple of Royals hitters ended horrible slides Friday. Esteban German's third-inning double stopped an 0-for-17 streak, while John Buck's fifth-inning two-bagger put the brakes on an 0-for-30 stretch. … Mike Pelfrey allowed seven hits and didn't walk a batter in seven scoreless innings, beating the Pirates and improving to 9-2 in his past 15 starts. He's 11-8 overall. Aaron Heilman was the winner of the "Who's Going to Get Tonight's Save Opportunity?" lottery for the Mets. He now has three saves on the season. … Rick Ankiel might have finally conquered his abdominal strain. At the very least, he conquered Bronson Arroyo, hitting his first home run in three weeks. … Reds' left fielder Chris Dickerson, called up to replace the recently traded Adam Dunn, hit a solo home run and a double Friday and now has six major league hits, all of them for extra bases. … Matt Cain won his second straight decision (for the first time all season), striking out five and allowing only one run over seven innings. The Giants pitcher has a 1.81 ERA in his past seven starts but is only 3-2 over that stretch. … Jamie Moyer and Greg Maddux faced off in a "Battle of Elders" and earned much respect in the process. Pat Burrell homered off Maddux in the seventh inning for the game's only run while Moyer allowed three runs or fewer for the 13th consecutive outing. … Troy Tulowitzki and Brad Hawpe both homered for the Rockies, extending the team's streak of games with home runs to a season-high 10 games. … It's feast or famine for the Rangers. After scoring 17 runs in a loss to Boston earlier in the week, the team now has failed to score in all but one of its past 27 innings. Matt Garza threw a two-hit shutout for Tampa Bay. … Nick Swisher went 0-for-3 and was hit by a pitch in his return to Oakland. Teammate Carlos Quentin, who hit his 33rd home run of the season in the game, was just happy the pitch didn't hit him. Quentin had been plunked in six straight games. … Daryle Ward broke out of an 0-for-13 slump with a pinch-hit, three-run, game-winning, multiple-hyphenated-adjective home run off of Marlins Kevin Gregg.


You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?

Standing Out

Jack Cust, A's
He might not hit for average, but Cust sure can knock 'em over the fence. He homered twice on Friday, giving him 22 homers for the season in just 359 at-bats.

Kevin Millwood, Rangers
Millwood's return from the DL didn't go too much better than his starts before being placed on it. On Friday he lasted just 4 2/3 innings, allowing five runs to the Rays.
News and Notes

Friday's game between the Blue Jays and Red Sox was postponed due to rain and will be made up Sept. 13 as part of a day-night doubleheader. The postponement means Paul Byrd will now make his Boston debut Saturday against Roy Halladay, and the duel between Josh Beckett and Shaun Marcum will now take place Sunday. … Ryan Braun missed his sixth consecutive game. He was able to take batting practice, but it's looking like Sunday might be the earliest we can expect Braun back in the Brewers' starting lineup. … Giants manager Bruce Bochy told reporters that Aaron Rowand, who left Thursday's game because of tightness in his lower back, is a good bet to play Saturday. … Maicer Izturis will have season-ending surgery on his left thumb, meaning Erick Aybar owners should expect to see his name in the box score every day. … Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs missed Friday's game after injuring his left hip sliding into home Thursday. He should return Saturday. … Cristian Guzman's thumb is bothering him. He has now missed two games for Washington. Manager Manny Acta said the team would give Guzman a few more days to rest. … Texas' Marlon Byrd left Friday night's game because of a hyperextended left elbow, which he suffered while crashing into the outfield wall in a vain attempt to catch Willy Aybar's home-run blast. He said his fingers were tingling, but X-rays were negative and he's listed as day-to-day.

• The Rays have placed Troy Percival on the 15-day disabled list. Percival will be out at least two to three weeks and might need season-ending surgery after spraining his knee fielding a bunt Thursday. Percival joins Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria on the Rays' growing injury wagon.

• Atlanta pitcher Tom Glavine's season might be over. On Thursday, Glavine, trying to work through an elbow injury in an attempt to avoid surgery, gave up seven runs to the Cubs in his first start since June 10, and he felt discomfort on the mound in the process. It appears the team will shut him down for 2008; he was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday.

Chris Carpenter's comeback has hit a snag. Just three starts after returning from 2007 Tommy John surgery, Carpenter has strained his pitching shoulder. The Cardinals placed him on the 15-day disabled list; he joins fellow pitchers Adam Wainwright and Mark Mulder on the shelf. Brad Thompson, who got the win Friday to improve to 5-2 this season, will take Carpenter's place in the rotation.

• Detroit activated Todd Jones on Friday, but manager Jim Leyland said it might be a while before he gives Jones his closer's job back. "I might use [Fernando] Rodney some," Leyland said. "I might use [Kyle] Farnsworth some. I might use Jones some." After Jones allowed three hits and five unearned runs in two-thirds of an inning Friday night, we think Leyland might use Jones a little less than "some."

• The Richie Sexson experiment is over. The Yankees released Sexson and sent outfielder Melky Cabrera to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and recalled outfielder Brett Gardner and infielder Cody Ransom, all in an attempt to kick-start a suddenly struggling lineup. So far, not so good. Gardner, starting in center field, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Friday, and the Yankees lost, 4-3.

On The Farm

• Can anything go right for the Nationals? The Washington Post reports that talks between the team and its top 2008 draft pick, pitcher Aaron Crow, broke down as the midnight deadline for signings passed. We were thinking about using the phrase "eating crow" here, but the deadline for bad puns has mercifully passed as well.

Hideki Matsui hit a solo home run in his first rehab game for Class-A Tampa on Friday. Matsui, the team's designated hitter, went 1-for-3 on the night.

• Boston's Bartolo Colon pitched only one inning in a rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket before leaving, but the good news is the cause was the stomach flu -- not anything related to his back or arm.