I’m an absolute skeptic by nature. Growing up in this town made me that way. Friends and family have chastised me for it. So, for me to throw around glowing remarks is quite contrary to my generally harsh criticisms. However, this grading shouldn’t come as much as a surprise.
Cliff Lee is an absolute beast; a workhorse that cannot be tamed. It’s been three starts as a Phillie, and its completely obvious he deserves the highest marks for a job superbly done.
For a moment, we all wondered whether or not this would be the right move. Roy Halladay was so damn close, Phillies fans were already buying their fake red beards. Even Doc thought he was going to be here, but alas it was not to be.
Instead, we had to settle for “the other Cy Young winner” being dangled at the deadline. Instead of the red beard, we’ll have to settle for the soul patch. Facial Hair = A
In his three starts as a Phillie, Lee has given up three earned runs over 24 innings, while averaging 114 pitches per outing. A BB/K ratio of 6/23 tells the tale of surgeon-like precision around the plate. On Comcast SportsNet last night, he mentioned his cutter was working. Perhaps he should nickname that pitch “The Scalpel,” as it slices through the zone, carving up the hitter’s swing and psyche all at once. Mound presence = A+
Forget home runs, I’d much rather see a pitcher in his prime, hitting every spot necessary, making every game about him. Cliff Lee is simply taking over games right now, and in turn, is taking over the National League. Hell, he’s even doing it with the stick. You get the best of both worlds from him. He is this year’s C.C. Sabathia. Offense = A
If there is a flaw here, I haven’t seen it. Lee pitches with unbridled exultation, yet composes himself through uncompromising focus that draws his teammates in like a gravitational field. Too much? Maybe. But you can’t deny the dude is good, and is making everyone around him jump up a level when he is on the mound.
When he is not on the mound, the rest of the staff is doing their best to follow suit. Joe Blanton has been lights out and J.A. Happ has been remarkably consistent. The only one left to join the fray is Cole Hamels. The similarities are uncanny between the two pitchers as they are both lanky lefties that rely more on comfort than speed. They will not blow you away, but they can if their secondary pitches are in top form. Recently, we haven’t seen that from Hamels, and this Saturday we will find out if he can truly give this team a second ace.
I’ll admit, I wanted Roy Halladay to wear the red pinstripes. But I will also declare my passion for keeping the farm system stocked for the future. Cliff Lee was a bargain by industry standards, but is clearly a gem. The Phillies did not break the bank, and are enjoying the same type of pitching they would have likely received from Halladay. Will this sizzling streak continue? Hard to say, of course, since he is new to the league, and hasn’t been seen enough by the opposition. But through three games in Philly, the results are sparkling.
Cliff Lee is the energy drink, the shot of espresso this team desired. One by one, he is tossing teammates onto his broad shoulders, leading his mates toward the Promised Land once again. Overall, Cliff Lee gets himself a well-deserved A+.