Philadelphia Phillies: Can Cliff Lee Pass Roy Halladay as Staff's 'Ace'?
Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay may currently be the two biggest superstars in the city of Philadelphia. There is a good chance that you will see a Halladay or Lee jersey if you walk around the city, and that's even during the offseason.
That's also in a city that features the likes of Michael Vick, Jaromir Jagr, Claude Giroux Hunter Pence, and to a lesser extent the first-place baby Sixers with Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Co.
Who would've thought that Philadelphia would have even half of those names a decade ago? Anyone?
Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee form the most dominant one-two punch in MLB, and even third starter Cole Hamels would be a starter on almost any other in team in the league. Both Lee and Halladay have won a Cy Young in the American League, and Halladay won it for the second time in 2010 while pitching in the NL for the Phils.
Halladay became only the fifth pitcher ever to win the award as a member of both leagues and almost won it again in 2011. This article by Fangraphs does a great job proving why Halladay and Lee were both more deserving of the Cy Young than Clayton Kershaw last season.
Halladay is the consensus best pitcher in baseball, but could Cliff Lee be better in 2012?
Let's take a further look as to why Lee could outshine the "Doc" this season.
Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet
This article was not intended to diminish the greatness of Roy Halladay, but merely to point out how brilliant Cliff Lee was in his first full year with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Lee won the Cy Young with the Cleveland Indians in 2008 after posting a Steve Carlton-esque 22-3 record. It could be strongly argued that he was even better in 2011 with the Phightin's.
Let's take a closer look and compare the two seasons.
ERA in 2008: 2.54
ERA in 2011: 2.40
Complete Games in 2008: 4
Complete Games in 2011: 6
CG Shutouts in 2008: 2
CG Shutouts in 2011: 6
Innings Pitched in 2008: 223.1
Innings Pitched in 2011: 232.2
Hits allowed in 2008: 214
Hits allowed in 2011: 197
Runs allowed in 2008: 68 in 31 starts
Runs allowed in 2011: 62 in 32 starts
K's in 2008: 170
K's in 2011: 238
WHIP in 2008: 1.110
WHIP in 2011: 1.027
K/9 IP in 2008: 6.9
K/9 IP in 2011: 9.2
You get the picture that Lee had statistically his best season ever in 2011. He is back again in 2012 with more experience against NL hitters, 45,000 strong behind him on every pitch and an opportunity to win a World Series.
Doc is great, but could Lee be better in 2012? It could happen.
Comfort Zone: No Place Like Home
It's not a stretch to say that Cliff Lee has been untouchable at Citizens Bank Park in front of the Philly Phaithful since he's arrived.
In 2011, Lee was 11-3 at the "Bank" with a minuscule 1.94 ERA, compared to a 6-5 record with a 3.03 ERA on the road.
Lee took less guaranteed years and money to come pitch in front of the town that loved him right away and in a ballpark that has been described by the opposition as a "band-box."
Lee enjoys pitching when the lights are brightest and in front of a raucous crowd—two things you can surely expect at Citizens Bank Park.
This is a portion of Lee's press conference when he returned to the Phillies after signing a five-year, $125 million deal:
"I think the—how do you put it—intensity that you can feel when you get in the game. You can feel the volume. Every game has got an elevated feel to it compared to everywhere else. It's completely different. I don't know what the fans do to create that much more volume and excitement in the stadium, but it's definitely something extra here. I don't know what it is, but it's something they're doing.
They get excited. They're passionate fans. They understand what's going on. They don't need a teleprompter to tell them to get up and cheer, to do that. No, it's exciting. It's an historic town. I didn't realize until I got here how interesting the city is. My family really liked it. I mean, that played a big part in it."
He is dominant at home, and we all know that Phillies fans travel as well as (if not better) than any other team in MLB.
If he learns to translate his home "stuff" onto the road—sheer dominance in 2012 and possibly another Cy Young award for the mantle.
Consistency Is the Goal and the Key
Cliff Lee had some absolutely dominating stretches in 2011 for the Philadelphia Phillies.
For example, three consecutive complete-game shutouts, one earned run in the month of June, which meant a .21 ERA, and 32 consecutive shutout innings.
Those numbers are clearly astronomical and impossible to ask of a guy, but it shows how terrific Lee can be and why he is one of the top five pitchers in the game.
Roy Halladay is a model of consistency and has a legendary work-ethic that has been well chronicled.
Lee is a freak athlete who is ready to build upon his greatest season as a pro.
Postseason Success Is the Best
This picture is of Cliff Lee running off the mound after Game 2 of the NLDS, when he blew an early lead (and arguably the series) against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The man can do no wrong in this city, as I pointed out here, as he is receiving a standing ovation after a subpar performance.
Even with Lee's struggles of late (see above) his numbers in the playoffs have been spectacular.
He is 7-3 with a 2.52 ERA, 3 CG, and a 9.8 K/9 rate. Halladay has been—well, Halladay, in the playoffs, but Lee is still as clutch as it gets when the games matter most.
Both pitchers are great no matter who has the better season in 2012. Lee and Halladay are two of MLB's ultimate/fiercest competitors, and they will continue to push each other (and King Cole Hamels) toward greatness this season.
One thing is for certain—Halladay and Lee will be darn fun to watch for Phillies fans and torture for opposing hitters.
What do you think? Will Cliff Lee have a better season than Roy Halladay statistically in 2012?