Philadelphia Phillies: Reliance on Cliff Lee's Pitching Has Positives and Negatives

By Marilee Gallagher
Dale Zanine-USA Today Sports

When the 2013 season began, the Philadelphia Phillies were immediately dealt a huge blow.

Ace and $144 million man Cole Hamels was banged up a bit in his Opening Day start, giving up three home runs and five total runs in just five innings. Following Hamels’ start, Roy Halladay took to the mound trying to right his own rocky ship. He lasted just 3.1 innings however, and also gave up five runs while walking three.

With their top two aces falling short, the Phillies looked to Cliff Lee, the other lefty ace on the team, to stop the losing streak. For a guy who couldn’t buy a win last year, Lee delivered. He went eight innings, struck out eight and only gave up two hits.

Hamels and Halladay then both went to the mound for their second starts and like a case of deja vu, neither won and neither pitched well. In fact, both actually did worse.

So just like they did after the 0-2 start, the Phillies will look to Lee to get them a much-needed win against NL East rivals New York Mets.

The only problem is, this formula is a far from polished one and the Phillies cannot afford to rely on Lee and Lee alone.

What Lee has been able to do so far, albeit in just one start, really is a positive for the Phillies. Other than Halladay, Lee was talked about most in the offseason as he spoke about rebounding from a very off year in 2012. It is just one start, but of the three so-called “aces”, Lee has shown the most promise and the best stuff, so on the surface, relying on him as the top ace shouldn’t be an issue.

Yes, Lee is a good pitcher and in some instances a great pitcher, but beyond all, he is a streaky pitcher and has been for the past few years of his career.

Following his Cy Young winning season in 2008, Lee has posted records of 14-13 (’09), 12-9 (’10), 17-8 (’11) and 6-9 (’12). In all but 2012, he has had at least one month in which he has lost three or more games and a month in which he has won at least four.

2011 is a perfect example of Lee’s streaky pitching as he posted perfect months in June and August, but piled up an ERA over 4.00 in both April and July. May and September’s stats fell in between.

Lee can be counted on to get wins, but the Phillies have to be cautious. He might go 4-0 in April, but there is every reason to believe he could very well go 0-4 in May.

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