Colby Lewis – In Your Face

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 24:  Colby Lewis #48 of the Texas Rangers pitches in the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 24, 2014 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

One thing that has always ticked me off about advanced stat gurus is the fact that most of them, not all, but most of them are so closed-minded when it comes to using other methods of evaluating players. They are so set in their ways of evaluation that no other method of judging talent is acceptable. And if you do use other methods to judge a character, you have no idea what you’re talking about and you are just some random fair-weather baseball fan that has no idea what you’re talking about.

We can sit here and say that Leonys Martin has an incredible arm, one of the best in the league but sabermetric guys, as they’re often referred to as, will say “yeah, but what’s his DRS?”

We can say that Shin-Soo Choo is swinging a really hot bat right now and has proven throughout his career that he can get on base and make things happen. Saber guys will say, “..but what’s his hard%?” (Insert adolescent joke here).

Um, who cares?

Don’t get me twisted here, I fully believe that the best way to evaluate a player is by a good quality mix of scouting, the eye test, traditional stats, and some advanced analytics. There is no right or wrong way to evaluate a player. Each method is a lens, and if you look through just that one lens, you will probably miss something you wouldn’t have seen had you not looked in that second lens.

If you’ve been looking through that advanced metric lens only recently, you are missing one hell of a modern marvel.

Think about this, a guy who had Tommy John Surgery at age 16 was told that no pitcher has ever thrown as long as he has post-TJ surgery. That hasn’t stopped him. Neither has a shoulder operation, a second shoulder operation, hip resurfacing surgery, or a torn flexor tendon in his elbow.

The latter two came within the last two years, when Colby Lewis was already into his 30s. No pitcher had ever had the hip resurfacing surgery and then came back to pitch in the big leagues, let alone effectively.

Then there was the “you can’t cut it in the majors, no one wants you so go to Japan” phase too. Lewis played baseball in Japan for a few years before attempting to come back to the States to see if he could hack it here one more time.

In 2010 Texas signed Lewis to a two year $1.75M deal to give him a shot. It might go down as one of the most underrated signings of Jon Daniels’ tenure in Texas.

Lewis pitched well in 2010 going 12-13 with a respectable 3.72 ERA over 32 starts. For you advances metrics guys who say ERA doesn’t tell the whole story, you’re right. His FIP was even better at 3.55. Lewis’ regular season wasn’t the story though, it was his postseason.

Colby Lewis was a flat out dominate ace in October that year. In four games he went 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA over 26.1 innings. His best performance was without a doubt the unforgettable 2010 ALCS Game 6 clincher in which he went eight innings, giving up just three hits, one run (earned), walking three, and striking out seven New York Yankees. His postseason heroics didn’t end there, he got the only win the Rangers would get in the World Series in game three, going 7.2 innings, giving up five hits, two runs (both earned), two walks, and six more strikeouts. The entire postseason Lewis stranded an astonishing 97% of base runners. 97 percent!

All of this after coming back to the States from Japan hoping he could make it at the big league level – at age 30.

Lewis regressed a little bit in 2011 going 14-10 with a 4.40 ERA over 32 more starts but was plagued by the long ball as he led the majors in home runs allowed with 35.

But then came the 2011 postseason and while no one expected Colby Lewis to duplicate what he did in the 2010 postseason, he did a pretty damn good job. In four games he went 1-1 with a 3.04 ERA over 23.2 innings. His lone loss was the ALCS Game 3 defeat at the hands of the Detroit Tigers. The main difference in 2010 and 2011 was that all of his starts in 2010 were at home and all of them in 2011 were on the road.

Colby Lewis, who couldn’t hack it in the big leagues, goes to Japan for a couple years, comes back and at age 31, makes four postseason starts on the road and posts a 3.04 ERA?

I don’t need advanced analytics to tell me that that is pretty damn good. I don’t need analytics to tell me that Colby Lewis doesn’t miss enough bats to sustain success at the big league level. And you know why I don’t need them?

Because I have eight postseason starts and a sub 2.35 ERA that tells me he does have what it takes to sustain success at the big league level. I don’t care what his FIP and xFIP are. Did he live dangerously? Perhaps. Did he get the job done? Absolutely. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what this job is about?

Lewis made 16 starts in 2012 before going on the disabled list because of a torn flexor tendon in his elbow. Before he hit the DL however, he had a sub 3.50 ERA. He was still being plagued by the long ball but he was still producing. 12 of his 16 starts he went at least six innings and of those 12 starts, he only gave up more than two runs twice.

Cobra was attempting to rehab his elbow in Frisco in 2013 when his hip was just too painful to deal with and decided to have hip resurfacing surgery. Many thought this would end his career and wrote him off.

Colby Lewis would have none of that. He sees your write-off and raises you in determination.

Lewis came back in 2014 and let’s face it, he wasn’t good in the first half. He’s facing live hitters (not counting spring training) for the first time since the middle of 2012, coming off elbow AND hip surgery. The hip surgery, mind you, no other pitcher has had before and had no idea if he would even pitch again, let alone be able to contribute.

The first half of 2014 was rough for Lewis and the haters were out in full force. Over his first 16 games back from two surgeries, Lewis was 6-6 with a 6.54 ERA. He had given up 127 hits and 65 runs in 84 innings including 11 long balls for a 1.821 WHIP. Virtually everyone was writing off Colby Lewis and rightfully so.

But then came the second half of 2014. In his first five starts after the All-Star Game, Lewis didn’t give up more than two runs in any start. That included a complete game shutout of the Chicago White Sox. During that time, Cobra lowered his ERA by more than a full run from 6.54 to 5.42. Lewis would finish out 2014 strong, averaging nearly seven innings a start and lowered his ERA to 5.18.

The argument over whether or not Colby Lewis would return in 2015 began. Advanced Metrics guys argued that he was done and he had no business being on this Rangers team. He wasn’t missing enough bats and was giving up too many home runs.

On the other hand, the more traditionalist fans were saying, hey Lewis flashed something there in the second half and maybe there is some potential to have him in the back end of the rotation. I mean why not, right? We found out the hard way last year that you can never have too much pitching.

When the Rangers signed Lewis to a new contract over this past offseason and sort of pseudo assigned him to the 4th or 5th spot in the rotation, it sent advance metric guys into tirades.

Jon Daniels got blasted by those advanced guys. I saw several of them saying that you just don’t build a bullpen from the back forward because you have no idea what you will put in the front or the middle. Go after the big guns first, and then fill in with what’s left after that.

I couldn’t disagree more. I feel like if you like a guy and you feel like he can contribute to your team, get him. Sign him up and figure out the role later. You can never have too much pitching. Never. I liked the move from Daniels to get Lewis and bring him back for another year. I felt like he could be a great middle to back end piece. He could contribute and be productive.

He’s done that and then some.

Cobra has posted a 3-2 record with a 2.40 ERA , good enough for 16th in all of baseball. And I get it, he’s probably not going to pitch like a front line starter for the entire year but he’s not as bad as some people projected him to be.

What’s that? Seven games is too short of a sample size to evaluate? I’m cool with that, but how’s 20 starts? Is that enough for ya?

Over his last 20 starts, dating back to last season, Colby Lewis has posted a 3.37 ERA over 131.1 innings. That would have placed him just outside the top 10 in the AL last year.

But Billy, he doesn’t miss enough bats.

Fine, chew on this then..

Colby Lewis has a better K/9 ratio than David Price. That’s right, David Price. You know what else Cobra is doing better than Price? Stranding runners – 81.8% – 68.8%.

But Billy, Colby Lewis’ GB% is too low.

So is David Price’s. As a matter of fact, Lewis and Price are pretty damn close in GB% – 37% for Price and 34% for Lewis. Let’s go ahead and add in the fact that Lewis has a better HR/FB ratio than Price does right now. Oh and their FIP is nearly identical and their xFIP is pretty close as well – 4.35 to 4.08 in favor of Price.

I’m not comparing David Price to Colby Lewis on a large scale. I am simply giving you a measuring stick to use. Just because you have some random statistic that someone made up and profiles it as the best way to predict future success, doesn’t mean it is THE way to predict future success. The best way, might just mean that it’s the best way among a set of ways that all suck at predicting future success. Truth is, predicting future success is nothing more than a guess. Put all the numbers together you want, it doesn’t make them accurate.

My point is, while Colby Lewis is not an ace, hell he’s not even a number two or three anymore, he is very productive and he has been worth every single penny and then some. At what point do you put down the pen and calculator, watch the games and admit that Colby Lewis has been a lot better than you calculated? At what point do you eat crow and say you were wrong?

If 20 starts isn’t enough for you to admit you were wrong, then you are so blinded by your advanced analytics agenda, that you are forgetting that the game is played on the field, not on your legal pad.

Want some advanced metrics proving value? Here’s one that all the sabr guys seem to love:

Colby Lewis has been worth 1.0 fWAR this year so far. Last year, he was worth 1.1 fWAR. In 2012 before getting hurt, he was worth 1.8 fWAR, in 2011 2.0 and in 2010 he was worth 4.5 fWAR. Hold on, let me get my calculator, legal pad and #2 pencil..

[punching numbers.. ]

[adjusting my glasses..]

[writing numbers down..]

That means Colby Lewis has been worth 10.4 fWAR in his, what amounts to, four full seasons with the Rangers. What makes him valuable? If a win this year is worth roughly $7M, Colby is worth that and being paid just $4M. A win was worth less than that each of the last five years going back to 2010 and each year Colby Lewis made less. Colby Lewis has been more than a valuable player; he’s provided your team, our team, with surplus value and results. And yet all some of you can do is bash him because “he doesn’t miss enough bats” or “he’s not this good, he’s going to regress”.

I’ll ask you again – at what point will you believe that he is this good? At what point will you finally say, “Well, hell, Colby Lewis isn’t as bad as we thought he was”?

You know what? I don’t care if you ever get to that point. That is your opinion and you are entitled to it. My opinion differs from yours and that’s okay. We can look at things differently.

I’m a fan, a Rangers fan, and Colby Lewis is pitching pretty damn good for my team.

So pick up your legal pad, #2 pencil, and calculator and get the hell off my lawn.

Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler and Texas starting pitcher Colby Lewis exchange pleasantries after Kinsler popped up in the third inning during the Detroit Tigers vs. Texas Rangers major league baseball game at Globe Life Park in Arlington on Tuesday, June 24, 2014.  (Louis DeLuca/Dallas Morning News)

Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler and Texas starting pitcher Colby Lewis exchange pleasantries after Kinsler popped up in the third inning during the Detroit Tigers vs. Texas Rangers major league baseball game at Globe Life Park in Arlington on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (Louis DeLuca/Dallas Morning News)

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Billy Casey
Billy is a baseball fanatic and has been around the game since he was four years old. The first ever game he attended was in September of '89 and Pete Incaviglia denied him an autograph after he had a bad batting practice session. Billy has held a grudge since. Billy is also a baseball coach who is known to dance around the dugout like Ron Washington during big plays in the game.

3 comments

  • Amen, Billy. There are some things that cannot be measured by metrics. The heart that beats in Cobra’s chest is one of them. Give him a ball, put him on a mound, and tell him there’s a field and dugout full of guys counting on him and you’ll never convince him he’s not the best guy to have out there for that moment.

  • Well done. Sounds similar to a conversation I had with a guy on Monday at Boomerjacks. LOL

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