Cliff Lee: Why Philadelphia Phillies Fans Should Be Fed Up with Losses

Mark SwindellCorrespondent IJune 10, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 30:  Cliff Lee #33 of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on after giving up a two run home run to Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets during their game on May 30, 2012 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

OK, I get it.  Lee hasn't received much run support this season and wins is an overrated stat in determining the effectiveness of a starting pitcher.  With that being said, the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans should be expecting—and getting—more from Cliff Lee.

After the Phillies' 5-4 loss Sunday, Lee is now 0-3 with a 3.18 ERA.  He has struck out 74 in 70.2 innings while walking just 13.

This season, Lee is the third-highest-paid pitcher in all of baseball, behind the Mets' Johan Santana and the Yankees' CC Sabathia. For $21.5 million, Lee is not getting it done, and at some point, he lost the ability to shut teams down once the Phillies have the lead.

It started in the NLDS last season against the eventual World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. After the Phillies roared back to crush the Cardinals 11-6 in Game 1, they handed Lee a 4-0 lead that should have put the NLDS on ice. 

However, Lee was torched by the likes of Ryan Theriot, Jon Jay and Rafael Furcal to blow the lead, the game, the series and the season.

For some reason, though, Lee gets a free pass from Phillies fans. Why?  I guess because he chose to come back to Philadelphia and spurned the New York Yankees.  But it's not like he came back as a charity case.  Again, Lee is the third-highest-paid pitcher in all of baseball.

Let's examine some of Lee's starts this season:

  • Had a 1-0 lead in the sixth vs the Pirates. Lee couldn't hold it, Phils lose 2-1.
  • Next start gave up three in the first to the Mets, Phils lose 5-2.
  • Next time facing the Mets, had a 2-1 lead in the sixth, gave up a run and only lasts six innings in a 10-6 loss.
  • Against Boston, allowed five runs in first three innings, burying the Phils as they lose 5-1.
  • Staked a 2-0 lead early vs. the Cardinals on May 25th, then gives up a solo run in three consecutive innings to fall behind 3-2 only to be bailed out this time by the Phillies' bats.
  • Gave up a two-run double to Elian Herrera in his last start with two outs in the eighth to relinquish a 1-0 lead.
  • And, today, given a 4-1 lead, promptly allows a two-out, three-run bomb to Steve Tolleson.

Now, look at these teams and think of how offensively challenged they are:

A few fans still cheered for Lee after blowing Game 2 last season.
A few fans still cheered for Lee after blowing Game 2 last season.Rob Carr/Getty Images

That's who the third-highest-paid pitcher in baseball has been asked to face this season.  The Cardinals and Red Sox have solid lineups.  The rest do not. Yet the Phillies are 3-7 when Lee starts.  A .300 winning percentage—unacceptable.

At some point, a pitcher of Lee's caliber needs to shut an opponent down when given a lead.  This Phillies team is awful once the other team comes from behind to tie the game up or take the lead.  A definite lack of fight. That's another story altogether.

The free pass should be up for Lee.  He's being paid like an ace, it's time to win like an ace.