Cliff Lee Does It All, But For How Much Longer?


Cliff Lee was happy last night. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

After last night’s 12-2 drubbing of the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park, one thing became crystal clear.

Cliff Lee is ridiculous.

The dude just keeps on ticking, last night pitching eight innings for the third straight time, giving up two runs on eight hits with 14 strikeouts and 0 walks for his 14th win of the season.

Yes, that’s correct. Cliff Lee struck out 14 hitters and walked none, becoming the first Phillie to do that since Curt Schilling in 1997.

Oh, but that’s not all. Lee also went 3 for 4 at the plate with four RBIs, including his first career triple.

So, that’s a pretty good night.

In all, the Phillies battered the Marlins for 14 hits and two home runs, including a three-run shot by Chase Utley (his 17th of the year) and a two-run homer by Darin Ruf (his 14th). The only Phillie regular not to get a hit was Carlos Ruiz, who obviously must have had the flu or typhoid or something.

But back to Cliff Lee. The dude just turned 35 years old. And he’s STILL doing this.

This year, Lee is 14-6 with a 2.95 ERA, 7th best in the NL. And look where he is on some of these other leaderboards…

NL Rank
OPP BA.23412th
OPP OPS.6399th

Sep 16, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee (33) delivers to the plate during the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Marlins 12-2. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The man continues to own, year after year, and he’s doing it again in 2013. Not that anyone outside of Philadelphia has noticed, what with the Phillies having their second straight down year.

Frankly, the Phillies are wasting Cliff Lee’s prime. Lee will pitch most of 2014 as a 35-year-old. How many years like this does he have left?

One would think Lee would still have tremendous trade value this off-season. Of course, the Phils are likely to try and make another NL East run next year with Lee at the head of their rotation, so it’s doubtful Amaro is seriously thinking about trading him unless some team is willing to offer their top prospect, as well as a few other young fellas.

And, looking at those numbers, perhaps Amaro is right to keep those standards high. Because Clifton Phifer is still dominating National League hitters. It’s a good thing too, because since the All-Star break, Phils pitchers not named Lee or Cole Hamels have a 7.58 ERA.

Ryne Sandberg mentioned yesterday that, among the many things the Phils need to address this off-season, the rotation is among the top priorities. If the Phils keep Lee, which seems like a lock right now, the rotation will be headed by Lee, Hamels and Miguel Gonzalez. But MAG is an unknown at this point. The Phils could pony up the $6-8 million it’s going to cost to keep Kyle Kendrick, but his underwhelming second half performance has been disheartening, and re-signing him wouldn’t “improve” the rotation any.

Long story short, if the Phils want to compete in 2014 for reals, they need to hold onto Lee. He’s still just too good.

But how much longer can he do this? Can he maintain this level of effectiveness for the last two guaranteed years of his contract at $25 million a year (you can tack on a third year at $27.5 million if he reaches more than 200 IP in ’15 or a combined 400 IP in ’14-15)?

If the Phillies want to maximize return on an investment, the smart, long-term baseball move might be to seriously try to trade Lee this off-season. However, if the goal is to try to win the NL East, you can count on Lee anchoring the rotation for at least one more year next season.

And that wouldn’t be such a bad thing either, especially since Lee shows absolutely no signs of slowing down.


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