Player Review/Preview: Cliff Lee


Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Cliff Lee

Key Stats: WAR: 7.6 (4th); WHIP 1.010 (4th); IP 222.7 (3rd); K/BB per 9: 6.938 (1st); Salary: $25M

What Happened in 2013

Cliff Lee dominated in 2013. An All Star, he played like a man among boys. Cliff Lee owns the mound. Commanding all of his pitches to all parts of the strike zone, Lee is the epitome of consistent. His delivery is smooth and repeated with the precision of an oil drill. His strikeout to walk ratios are off the charts. If a hitter finds himself in a good count, which is rare, Lee will still punch his chosen quadrant of the zone. Often they guess right and still get beat.

A predator, he comes right after hitters on his terms and his tempo. Sometimes hitters will play games to throw him off; they step in and out but fail to rattle him. Usually they take a u-turn like the rest of the gang. I suppose a zebra might sometimes charge a lion but the results are the same.

For students of pitching in particular, watch the motion of his head throughout his windup and delivery. For all the power and punch he delivers, Lee’s head moves almost not at all. Not up or down or side to side or anywhere. It sits on a swivel and his eyes are locked in, staying on one plane. He has freakish coordination, like a large cat. He’s just better than you. He’s probably a good golfer and bowler, too. And he won’t let his wife win at cards or mini golf. On Easter he gets all the eggs.

What To Expect in 2014

Like everyone else, I expect Cliff Lee to dominate again in 2014. There’s a very good chance he will win the Cy Young Award. His competitiveness makes him a joy to watch. Lee and Cole Hamels will make the best 1-2 punch in baseball next season but if the Phillies can’t add another ace to the mix, it just won’t be enough to make up for all the team’s holes.