Cliff Lee is a pitcher with Philadelphia, and can unleash five different offerings ranging from a two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball, cut fastball, circle change and knuckle curve.
Ask any hitter why Lee’s been so dominant, and they’ll likely say he doesn’t issue many walks. Through last Sunday, Lee has recorded 1,199 strikeouts and 375 base-on-balls.
Is a batter wise to look for a certain pitch in a specific location, or better off guessing?
That’s the dilemma even elite hitters like Albert Pujols, Matt Kemp, Joey Votto, Jose Reyes, Ryan Braun and Starlin Castro in the National League face, or Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, Paul Konerko, Miguel Cabrera and Michael Young confront when inter-league games are played.
Lee throws in the mid-90’s, and has also mastered wicked off-speed tosses. Standing in the batter’s box may be akin to eating soup with a fork.
Lee’s plied his trade for Cleveland from 2002 through part of 2009 when he was traded to Philadelphia, Seattle and Texas, which he helped lead to the World Series in 2010.
So far, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound left-hander from Arkansas is 8-5 with 114 strikeouts, 25 walks and a 2.87 earned-run average.
Philadelphia has the best record in baseball (49-30), and is five games in front of Atlanta in the NL East.
With about half the season left, Lee’s topped double figures in strikeouts six times with six walks.
In four outings, the Phillies were winners, including his 10-whiff performance against the Dodgers on June 6, a 10-strikeout showing versus the Rangers on May 21, a 12-strikeout effort at Washington on April 14, and an 11-strikeout mark against Houston on April 2.
Oddly, when Lee fanned 16 Braves on May 6, and when he whiffed 12 at Arizona on April 25, the Phils lost.
Lee is much more concerned with wins than strikeouts, and has been lucky because he’s spent so little time on the disabled list.
With the exception of 2007 when Lee started 16 games, he’s been on the hill 191 games over a six-year span beginning in 2004, and has surpassed 200 innings five times in his 10-year career.
In Lee’s first two seasons, he posted a 3-4 mark, but rebounded with a 14-8 record in 2004, followed by 18-5.
After going 14-11 in 2006, Lee slipped to 5-8, but put together his signature season in 2008 with the Indians when he went 22-3 with 170 strikeouts, 34 walks and a 2.54 ERA.
To no one’s surprise, Lee, a two-time All-Star was handed the American League Cy Young trophy.
Lee’s been clutch when the lights have been the brightest. In 10 playoff games, he’s 7-2 and pitched to a 2.13 ERA in 76 innings with 80 strikeouts and eight walks.
With Philadelphia’s potent pitching staff, along with first baseman Ryan Howard, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, second baseman Chase Utley and center fielder Shane Victorino powering the offense, odds are steep the Phillies will make a deep run in the postseason, and that Lee will shine.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.