Thursday, August 20, 2009

Don't Ever LEEve

All it took was one start for me to declare Cliff Lee the greatest man who ever lived, and man, he sure as hell hasn't done a damn thing to convince me otherwise since.

I mean, I lobbied long and hard for Roy Halladay, but there's no way that even Doc could top Lee's first four starts as a Phillie. Here are his numbers since coming east from Cleveland: 4 starts, 4 wins, 33 innings pitched, 34 strikeouts, 2 complete games, 0.82 ERA, 0.73 WHIP … and 5-for-13 at the dish (.385).

And last night might have been his best outing so far: In his complete game, he surrendered just two hits, walking no one and striking out 11 while giving up just one unearned run thanks to an error by Pedro Feliz. I honestly thought he was going to throw a no-hitter, he was that dominating last night. Plus the guy, who has spent his entire career in the AL up until this point, went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .385. Perhaps he can give Eric Bruntlett and Paul Bako tips on how to hit.

Speaking of Bako, as abysmal as he's been at the dish since taking over the backup catcher duties from the departed Chris Coste (.180 batting average), it's hard to be mad at him. The guy has caught all four Lee starts and that's worked out pretty well I'd say.

For whatever reason, these two seem like they're always on the same page. Lee pretty much hasn't shaken off Bako once in four starts, meaning the two are thinking the same thing. That allows Lee, who works incredibly fast (like most really good pitchers do), to keep his rhythm and pace. In turn, with Lee and Bako working a lightning quick speed, the fielders stay in it and are on their toes. Essentially, it equates to a dominating pitcher with a defense that appreciates the way he works. And an alert and motivated defense is usually prone to avoid errors, Pedro's mishap notwithstanding.

It's as if Bako and Lee have been playing together their whole lives. Which they haven't, but boy has that pitcher-catcher duo been on. It's evident Bako knows how to call a great game.

This whole thing has been almost surreal to me. As good as Cole Hamels has been in his young career, he's not once been considered the best pitcher in the game … or even one of the truly top-notch aces, last year's playoffs excluded, of course. Curt Schilling was a tremendous pitcher, but the Phils were a laughingstock most of his time here, so he wasn't quite on the Cy Young radar.

The Phillies have never really had, in my lifetime, a true best in baseball type of ace, a guy considered as good as it gets in the game, on a team that was winning. Now they do in Cliff Lee, last year's AL Cy Young award winner, and the best pitcher in baseball since becoming a Phillie. This is what it feels like, and it feels damn good.

I hope Cliff Lee never leaves because when he takes the mound, I know the Phillies are going to win. Even when they're facing a stud like Dan Haren … who got lit up for six earned runs in five innings thanks to a 2-run homer by Chase, 3-run bomb by Howard and a solo shot by Werth (one of two for Werth in the game).

I can picture Harry last night giving a new spin on one of his most famous calls: "Cliff Lee, you ARE the MAN!"

BallHype: hype it up!


  1. I know you're lovin' life, anytime Lee goes up to the mound. The man has been a monster.

  2. I would love to shake Ruben Amaro's hand.