Philadelphia Phillies' pitcher Cliff Lee set a Major League record on September 23 against the Atlanta Braves, but his accomplishment wasn't strong enough to prevent his team from losing (2-1). The loss also pushed the Phillies closer to being eliminated from the National League's Wild Card race.
Through Sunday's home game against the Braves, Lee has gone fifteen consecutive starts (throwing at least six innings in each game) and hasn't allowed more than one walk. In today's game, he issued zero walks.
Lee passed the 14 consecutive game marks set by New York Giants' Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson in 1908 and by Braves' certain Hall of Famer Greg Maddux in 1997.
A great numbers' game
All hardcore baseball fans understand that comparing players from different eras, or even players from the same era, isn't an exact science and isn't meant to be that.
Mathewson pitched 635 games for the Giants from 1900-1916. He also threw one game for the Cincinnati Reds during the last season of his career in 1916. He walked 848 batters in 4,788.67 innings. That translates to a ratio of 1.6 bases on balls per nine innings during his 17-year career.
Maddux pitched 744 combined games for the Chicago Cubs, Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres from 1986-2008. He walked 999 batters in 5,008.33 innings. That translates to a ratio of 1.8 bases on balls per nine innings during his 23-year career.
Lee has been one of the better pitchers in baseball since he was with the Indians. But, no one is trying to imply that he will eventually be considered as a true peer of Mathewson, or Maddux.
The left-hander has pitched 282 combined games for the Cleveland Indians, Phillies, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers from 2002-2012. In 1,839.67 innings, he has walked a total of 420 batters and has a ratio of 2.1 bases on balls per nine innings.
Consistency, control and good health are just some of the factors that are crucial to having long-term success on the mound.
The indelible performances of Mathewson and Maddux will be discussed by baseball fans forever. As for Lee, he's likely to be remembered as one of the great control pitchers of his own era. The record that he set today adds to that speculative point.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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