Who's better: Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee?

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Clearly the Phillies’ decision to part with Cliff Lee and bring in Roy Halladay goes beyond each pitcher’s value for 2010.
Halladay is apparently willing to sign a long-term deal to remain in Philadelphia while Lee is reportedly intent on testing the free agent market next offseason, which makes it more complicated than simply asking “who’s better?”
With that said … well, I’m still interested in asking “who’s better?” Here’s what Halladay and Lee did in 2009:

2009              GS      IP      ERA     xFIP     SO9     BB9     OAVG
Roy Halladay      32     239     2.79     3.05     7.8     1.3     .256
Cliff Lee         34     232     3.22     3.69     7.0     1.7     .272



Those are regular season numbers, so they don’t include Lee going 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in the playoffs. And during the regular season Halladay had more strikeouts with fewer walks while being tougher to hit, so not surprisingly his ERA was 14 percent lower than Lee’s. He also topped Lee by 17 percent in Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP), which is basically like ERA with luck, ballparks, defenses, and bullpens removed from the equation. Lee was great in 2009, but Halladay was even better.
Here are the same numbers from 2008:

2008              GS      IP      ERA     xFIP     SO9     BB9     OAVG
Roy Halladay      33     246     2.78     3.14     7.5     1.4     .237
Cliff Lee         31     223     2.54     3.57     6.9     1.4     .253



Lee won the AL Cy Young in 2008 thanks to his sparkling 22-3 record and league-leading 2.54 ERA, but the secondary numbers show that Halladay was every bit as good and perhaps even better in some respects. Lee bested Halladay by 8 percent in ERA, but Halladay had more strikeouts with the same number of walks and was harder to hit, so he topped Lee by 12 percent in xFIP.
Ultimately both guys are among the truly elite pitchers in all of baseball, so comparing them and choosing a winner is going to ruffle some feathers either way. However, it seems clear to me that for however amazing Lee has been over the past two seasons Halladay has been even better and Halladay also has a far superior pre-2008 track record.
Some people have wondered why the Phillies would bother to orchestrate such a huge trade after what Lee did in the playoffs, but upgrading from an A-plus starter to an A-plus-plus starter while keeping him around long term is plenty of motivation.

Oh good, it’s “Yasiel Puig is a showboat” season

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With the Los Angeles Dodgers punching their ticket to the World Series, Yasiel Puig is now going to be the subject of commentary by people who tend not to care about Yasiel Puig until it’s useful for them to write outraged columns or go on talk radio rants about baseball deportment.

We got a brief teaser of this last night when, after scoring the Dodgers’ ninth run on a Logan Forsythe double, TBS analyst Ron Darling criticized Puig for his “shenanigans” and “rubbing it in.” Never mind that his third base coach was waving him home and that, if he didn’t run hard, he was just as likely to be criticized for dogging it. In other news, baseball teams don’t stop trying in the fourth inning of baseball games, nor should they.

That was just an appetizer, though. The first real course of the “Puig is a problem” feast we’re likely to be served over the next week and a half comes from Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, who wrote it even before the Dodgers won Game 5 last night:

If you were raised to love baseball and to recognize the smart, winning kind from everything less, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig is insufferable. As the sport is diminished by professionals who disregard the basic act of running to first base as a matter of style, Puig, an incurable home-plate poser, often makes turning doubles and triples into singles appear effortless . . . In the postseason, Puig continues to behave as if he’s in the Home Run Derby. He even seems to relish his high-risk flamboyant foolishness despite frequent backfires.

This may as well be a fill in the blanks column from 2013 or 2014, when “Puig is a flashy showboater who costs his team more than he gives it” columns were all the rage. It ignores the fact that Puig, commonly dinged for being lazy, worked his butt off in 2017, particularly on defense, to the point where he has a strong case for a Gold Glove this year. It also ignores his .455/.538/.727 line in the NLDS sweep of the Diamondbacks and his .389/.500/.611 line against the Cubs in the NLCS. In the regular season he set career highs for games, homers, RBI, stolen bases and almost set a career high for walks despite having seventy fewer plate appearances than he did back in 2013 when he walked 67 times. He’s not the MVP candidate some thought he might be, but he’s a fantastic player who has been a key part of the Dodgers winning their first pennant in 29 years.

But the dings on Puig from the likes of Mushnick have rarely been about production. They’ve simply been about style and the manner in which he’s carried himself. To the extent those issues were legitimate points of criticism — particularly his tardiness, his relationships with his teammates and his at times questionable dedication — they have primarily been in-house concerns for the Dodgers, not the casual fan like Mushnick. On that score the Dodgers have dealt with Puig and, by all accounts, Puig has responded pretty well. An occasional lapse to be sure, but nothing which makes him a greater burden than a benefit. I mean, if he was, would be be batting cleanup in a pennant-clinching game?

So if the beef with Puig is not really about baseball, what could Phil Mushnick’s issue with him possible be?

I, for one, have no idea whatsoever.