Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training: The Long Ball Continues To Hurt Cliff Lee

By David A. Cattai
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies are not getting any younger. Most of the team’s core players are aging veterans and the organization’s young prospects have yet to develop into everyday players.

If the Phillies are going to make it back to the playoffs, which they missed for the first time after five straight NL East division titles, then they are going to need to see consistency throughout their roster.

Most importantly, the Phillies are going to have to rely on players, such as Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, to have bounce back seasons.

Lee won a total of six games last season for the Phils’, which is the second lowest win total of his eleven-year career. Despite the 6-9 record, Lee was the victim of little-or-no run support through most of his games.

Through his first five starts of the season, Lee dazzled opponents with 34 strikeouts while only giving up eight earned runs in 37.0 innings of work. His 1.95 ERA, at the time, was close to tops in the National League.

Lee did not record his first win of the season until July 4th, a game which the Phillies won by a score of 9-2. But Lee’s mediocre season, by means of his contract, was not due to a lack of offense, however. Lee fell victim to the home run ball, something that has plagued him throughout his career. The thirty-four-year old left-hander gave up 26 home runs in 211.0 innings pitched, which was the third highest total of his career.

Lee has recorded three other 20-plus home run seasons, all of which were near the beginning of his career with the Cleveland Indians. In fact, from 2004 through 2007, Lee 51-32 with a 4.76 ERA for the Indians. But in those 188 starts, Lee gave up a total of 98 home runs, which led to his demotion to the minor leagues midway through the 2007 season.

Since that time, Lee has learned to keep the ball down in the zone and work on making better pitches. From 2008, the year he won the American League Cy Young award, through 2011, Lee has started 125 games and has witnessed his home-run total drop from 98 to 63 over the span of four seasons.

So far this spring, Lee has started three games and has given up three home runs. His 5.19 ERA is nothing to be worried about just yet, especially since he has thrown only 8.2 innings for the Phillies.

As the spring progresses and Opening Day nears, Lee’s home-run totals will be a big cause for concern, especially if the Phillies want to make it to the post-season.

David A. Cattai is a featured journalist with Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter (@DCattaiSports), Facebook, and Google+ for sports updates.

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