Jun 5, 2012

The Hope of Cliff Lee

Programming Note: Please join the group break.  Six guaranteed hits (+ surprises).  Five spots remain.

Cliff Lee is pitching and facing the Dodgers today in a possible season direction defining match.  At the very least, it is a statement game.  To be a viable contender, the team has to at least hold serve on a homestand with the #1 on the mound (since Halladay is hurt).  The Phillies are currently on a three game losing streak and still occupying the 5th position in the NL East standings.  There needs to be hope for improvement and it has to begin with the always gritty, go-getting visage of the Cliff Lee.

And what better image for hope than a 2011 Topps Update Hope Diamond card with tape on the toploader?  The team needs fixing and a direction, and Cliff Lee can be the captain of the new direction for the 2012 Phillies.  Almost all the other leaders from the past year's success are injured.  With the ones that remain (Lee, Hamels, Rollins, Victorino), they need to set the tone for the team in both attitude and performance.

Lee has not been the beneficiary of good luck or run support to this point of the 2012 season.  This is easily seen in his record: 0-2 in 8 starts with 3.00 ERA and 1.02 WHIP.  Wins are not exactly correlated with performance (check out Nolan Ryan's 1987 season or Randy Johnson's 2004 season for some extreme examples), but they usually do tend to follow some pattern in that a good performance is most likely rewarded.

This has not been the case thus far as Lee's run support has cratered to below 3.5 runs/game.  This is especially evident in the fact that in his 6 no-decisions he has allowed a total of 10 runs.  The 2 losses were the only 2 outings in which more than 3 runs were allowed.

He does not give in to any batter, peppering the boundaries of the strike zone with cutter after cutter.  He maintains a league best 5.40 K/BB ratio as of this writing.  This aggressiveness can be his demise as it was against the Red Sox.  However, the patient teams will take called strikes, be put behind, and eventually be put away.  The Dodgers tonight should hopefully be a good matchup for the strike zone movement artist.

The Phillies must take this game tonight and the next game tomorrow to begin the trend of reversing their home record from the current 12-16.  To be a contender, you have to hold your turf and Lee is throwing out the first pitch for that at the beginning of the 2nd third of the season.

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