Yesterday, I added Colby Lewis(notes) in two fantasy leagues, anticipating a useful upcoming Thursday start against Cleveland. And in fact it was a useful start ... but it happened on Wednesday, not Thursday. Lewis was bumped up a day in the Rangers' rotation because CJ Wilson(notes) was suffering from food poisoning.
So now I've got Lewis on two rosters, and he just picked up his second win. He struck out 10 hitters over 5.1 innings, allowing just three hits on a day he didn't even expect to pitch. His ERA is now 2.19 and his WHIP is 1.30. You can't drop a guy like that, right?
No, of course you can't.
Lewis, as many of you know, spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons pitching in Japan. While a member of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, he put up these numbers:
2008, age 28 - 178.0 IP, 12 HR, 27 BB, 183 K, 2.68 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
2009, age 29 - 176.1 IP, 13 HR, 19 BB, 186 K, 2.96 ERA, 0.99 WHIP
If he'd compiled those stats without ever having pitched in the U.S., major league teams would have lined up to offer him adsurd piles of money. His K-rate in Japan was higher than Yu Darvish's and his walk-rate was significantly lower. (Darvish is seven years younger than Lewis, of course, and he posted better ERAs and WHIPs in '08 and '09. But he's not today's subject). The problem is that Lewis had pitched in the U.S. — and he was shelled.
From 2002 to 2007, Lewis posted a 6.71 ERA over 217.1 major league innings, walking 124 batters. And then he went to Japan, and was almost immediately fantastic. But it's not as if he was exactly the same pitcher that he'd been before. Lewis altered his delivery, added a cutter, and began pounding the strike zone. The new combination impressed the Rangers, his original team.
This via Tim Kurkjian:
"There is a significant difference in [Lewis'] delivery and arm angle — he's more compact, he has more of a classic motion, his arm is pointed toward the plate more consistently," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "The quality of competition in Japan is not the same as it is in the big leagues, but strike-throwing is something that translates no matter what level. That walk/strikeout ratio wouldn't have meant as much if he was only throwing 86 [mph]. But he was throwing 90-to-95 with a hard cutter."
Check the video of Lewis' 10-K effort against Cleveland. The velocity is there, as is an unholy breaking pitch. Not surprisingly, he's one of today's most heavily added pitchers (over 4,800 pick-ups as of 6:00 pm CT). Lewis' next start will be at Boston, and I'm not quite confident enough to activate him for that one. But after the Red Sox series, the Rangers' schedule gets friendly. Here are their next 11 opponents: vs. DET, vs. CWS, at SEA, at OAK, vs. KC, vs. OAK, at TOR, vs. LAA, vs. BAL, vs. CHC, at KC.
So, again, there's no way you can launch Lewis now, not with that short-term setup. He's still only nine percent owned despite today's flurry of adds. If you're speculating, try the Carp.
Photo via AP Images