You can make a decent argument that Clifton Phifer Lee is the best starting pitcher in baseball. Granted, thanks to the intidimidating presence of future first ballot Hall-of-Famer Roy Halladay, it might be easier to argue he's not even the best starting pitcher in his own team's rotation. (And thanks to the continuing emergence of Cole Hamels. may even earn a bronze in the City of Brotherly Shove). But the case can be made for the lithe lefty.
Still, look at his performance last night against the Dodgers -- 7.2 IP, six hits, two runs, one walk, 12 strikeout, seven shoutout frames to begin the game. What's that, it must be his seventh or eighth win of the year already? Um, not quite ...
Sure, Lee threw 92 strikes on 122 pitches in the 2-1 loss to LA, the most strikes in a single game in the majors this season and the most since Halladay threw 94 in April of 2011.
Lee's numbers to this point in 2012 have been typically oustanding for the 2008 Cy Young Award winner and three-time All-Star; in nine starts so far, he averages more than seven IP per game, and owns an ERA of 2.92 and a K/BB ratio of 6:1 (66/11). In fact, after moving back to Philly after the 2010 ride to Texas' first World Series, Lee has almost certainly been, at least, MLB's finest left-handed starter, anyway. (Well, then, there's Hamels again ...)
So what's the big deal? It's a phrase starting to show up in headlines, or at least subheads, over stories every time Lee makes a '12 start -- and his next will be his tenth, so while he has missed two turns this year it's not like he's been disabled for any extended time this season -- the phrase "remains winless."
Dude's 0-3. He can make a good case for belonging on the All-Star team next month, and he's yet to record a victory. Heavens to 1987's Nolan Ryan (The '87 Express led the NL in ERA and K, and finished fith in the CYA voting, despite sporting an inglorious 8-16 record on the season) ... is Lee "on pace" to have the most dominant, least successful pitching season in our lifetimes?
So here's today's carefull-crafted and considered discussion question ...
Cliff Lee -- what the hell?
(P.S. bonus cuttlefish to the first Bauxite to cleverly and correctly respond to the headline, without relying on our Google Overlords!)