In 2007, Colby Lewis pitched for the Oakland A's. They signed him as a free agent just before the season, and at age 27 he alternated the year between Triple-A Sacramento and a couple stints in Oakland's bullpen, He posted a 6.45 ERA that year in 26 games, despite wonderful minor league numbers, and as you might expect from that awful performance he began bouncing around on waivers the next winter. Instead of waiting around, though, he packed up and headed to Japan to revitalize his career.
Two years later, at age 30, Colby returned with two excellent NPB seasons under his belt. In Japan he had struck out a batter per inning while slashing his walks, and the question was whether that was a mirage created by the weaker competition or an actual improvement in his game. Back with the Texas Rangers, who had drafted him in the first round over a decade earlier, he proved the latter to be true -- in 80 starts between 2010-12, he posted a 3.93 ERA (113 ERA+), eight strikeouts per nine innings, and a 3.39 K/BB rate.
The magic did eventually end, but only thanks to Father Time. Tommy John surgery cost Colby his 2013 campaign, and since then he's just been a mid-30s TJS survivor struggling to get even close to league average. The fact that he can even be that effective at this point helps illustrate the quality of his prime years.
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I think that when Colby was in Oakland, he somehow stole the plans. The plans to what? I dunno. The Death Star plans. The blueprints. The ancient scroll bearing the prophecy. Whatever it was, he loaded it into his Artoo unit and blasted off. And now he knows exactly where to fire his proton torpedoes every single time. Here's what he's done against the A's since returning from Japan as Good Colby:
* also, 4.68 K/BB
His ERA against the A's was better than his mark against the league in every single one of those seasons. Compare that with his overall performance since becoming Good Colby:
Colby, 2010-16: 155 starts, 88 QS, 4.19 ERA, 3.25 K/BB
Overall he's been pretty average, with a 102 ERA+ and quality starts in just over half of his outings. Against the A's, he's been a borderline Cy Young candidate.
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That's not that weird, though. In the random number generator we call MLB, with dozens of teams and hundreds of players spewing forth data on a daily basis, these kinds of oddities come up. What's crazy is that Lewis is getting better against Oakland. In his last three starts against the A's, he has taken a perfect game into the 8th inning in two of them.
Sept. 11, 2015: Perfect game broken up by Danny Valencia in 8th inning
Sept. 23, 2015: (just a regular ol' quality start)
June 16, 2016: Perfect game broken up by Yonder Alonso in 8th, no-no by Max Muncy in 9th
Seriously? I understand it happening once, but twice within one calendar year? This is getting ridiculous. Sure, the A's offense is weak, but it was in 2010-11 as well and he wasn't dominating to this extent.
It's bad enough that Colby did this against the same team twice, but he didn't even face the same players each time. Of the lineup he faced in that 2015 game, only Valencia and Muncy played in the encore on Thursday. That means that Colby has nearly gone perfect against two almost entirely different A's lineups. It's not just that he owns a particular group of hitters who all happen to be on the same team. It's that he owns whoever happens to put on the green and gold.
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When Colby returned from Japan, I remember rooting for him. The Rangers were a fun team on the rise and the A's weren't competing in the division anyway, and I almost always root for a reclamation project when possible. Then he established his pattern of dominating the A's and I started to loathe him, because obviously. Now it's been going on for so long that, much as with Adrian Beltre hitting homers from his knees, I can't do anything except stare in awe. What can you do when a mediocre 36-year-old consistently locks you down like no other pitcher can? Just shake his hand, give him a nod of respect and move on to the next game.
Colby Lewis makes no sense at all and that is the beauty of baseball. Even when we're on the losing end of it.