Last year, 2008 AL Cy Young Award Winner Cliff Lee lost three games in 31 starts. This season, he is 0-2 in two starts.
Last season, Lee gave up only one earned run and six hits in his first two starts. This season he has given up 11 earned runs on 17 hits in his first two starts.
It is early in the season, yes, but fans have to wonder what is up with Cliff Lee.
Perhaps the expectations are too high. Lee's career year in 2008, 22-3, 2.54 ERA, 170 K, earned him the AL Cy Young, his first All-Star appearance, and the Comeback Player of the Year.
The previous year, in 2007, Lee's season was riddled with injuries. He began the season on the DL after suffering an abdominal strain. When he returned in early May, he won his first two starts before sputtering to a 5-8 record.
Lee had an awful July in 2007. He didn't look good against anyone, going 5 R, 6 H, 4.0 IP against Toronto, 5.1 IP, 7 R, 9H against the Chicago White Sox, 6.2 IP, 7 R, 8 H against Texas, and 4.0 IP, 8 R, 9 H against Boston. Due to his poor starts he was relegated to bullpen duties.
Lee was booed off the field by Indians fans following the Boston game.
He would pitch only 5.2 innings the remainder of the season.
Lee was placed back in the rotation for the 2008 season, but was merely a side note in the rotation because 2007 AL Cy Young Winner C.C Sabathiaand up-and-coming star Fausto Carmona.
Despite the other talen in the rotation Lee surprised critics and fans alike, winning his first six starts, becoming the first Indian to accomplish the feat since Greg Swindell in 1988. He was also the first Indian to win 20 games since Gaylord Perry in 1974.
The Indians dealt Sabathia mid-season and Carmona had a sophomore slump. The Tribe finished the season 81-81, despite Lee's phenomenal play.
Sports Illustrated picked rising Cleveland to finish second in the AL Central this year, but have started the season 0-5.
Something is wrong with Cleveland, and it all starts with Lee.
Lee won 46 games for the Tribe from 2004-06, so he knows what he is doing. 2007 was Lee's first full season in which he didn't record 14 or more wins in his major league career.
Is it really Lee's fault, or is he facing hot teams? He gave up seven runs on 10 hits to Texas, who would outscore the Indians 29-13 in the three games series.
He also gave up four runs on seven hits in 5.0 IP against Toronto. He almost received a no-decision as the Indians just fell short of their comeback, scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth in a 4-5 loss.
Lee has been mediocre this season, but look for him to regain his composure as the season gets rolling. Don't expect him to duplicate his 2008 numbers, but he should be a 15 game winner for the Tribe.