Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Colby Lewis

20+ IP, 6.5 H/9 or lower, 9+ K/9 (Through May 18, 2010 - AL)
Daniel Bard (Red Sox) 21 IP, 5.57 H/9, 11.14 K/9
Colby Lewis (Rangers) 51.1 IP, 6.49 H/9, 9.47 K/9

Colby Lewis is 3-2 with a 3.68 ERA, but is dominating in many respects.  After a rocky ML career from 2002-2007, he left to pitch in Japan and quickly became a star.  He did so well that some ML teams began offering him contracts to come back, and the Rangers (the team that drafted him in the first round of the 1999 draft) were the winners.  It's rare for any ML player to resurrect their career in Japan, and especially so for a pitcher: (Tim Kurkjian)
"I'm so excited for this opportunity," Lewis said after finishing a workout. "Most guys go over there to finish up, but as my agent, Alan Nero, said, it's like hitting a grand slam, getting to come back here with a multiyear deal. Things like that don't happen very often."
Indeed. Very few players beyond Cecil Fielder have gone to Japan, come back and thrived in the big leagues. Since 1950, 48 pitchers have left America to pitch in Japan, and then came back to pitch in the major leagues. There have been few success stories. Bill Gullickson came back and won 61 games, including 20 for the Tigers in 1991. Elmer Dessens returned to win 46 games. Pedro Feliciano has had four decent years as a reliever for the Mets since coming back from Japan. Pat Mahomes went 9-0 for the Mets in his first year back in 1999.

Before he left for Japan, he averaged about 7 K/9, 10 H/9 and was12-15 with a 6.71 ERA.  He doesn't have the luxury of settling in as the 5th starter in a great rotation to ease back in.  As good as he's been, he's going to have to keep it up if the Rangers want to make the playoffs because their rotation is kind of thin.  He

Their best starter right now is C.J. Wilson, a converted reliever who hadn't made a start in the ML since 2005.  I guess Rich Harden is supposed to be their ace, but he's not pitching like it (2-1, 4.93 ERA).  The AL West might be one of those divisions that is so bad it only takes around 85 wins to win (although the Angels usually find a way to flip the switch at some point), but even 85 wins is going to require a good effort from Lewis the entire season. 

He's dropped off a bit in May, but his overall numbers are very encouraging and it will be interesting to see how does in his first full ML season since 2003 (when he finished 10-9 with a 7.30 ERA).

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