This post also doubles as the season review for Lee. Next week, we’ll take a deeper look at Halladay as our season review continues.
There were a few tough stretches during the 2011 season that made some people cringe when it came to Cliff Lee. After signing a new contract at over $20 million-per-season, it’s never any fun to start with a 4.18 ERA in April. Sure, he struck out 10 or more batters three times in that first month, but don’t lie; you were holding your breath a bit.
But even so, you were still smitten that Lee took “less” to come back to Philly. He talked so highly of the city and the fans that you were willing to look past a rocky start.
Lee eased into a solid May, but something was still missing. To that point, there had only been flashes of dominance. We’re the Phillies paying for just OK? His contract stipulated he be paid like a superstar pitcher, because that’s what he’d been the previous four years. Not to worry, he’d show up in a big way.
June was one of those months you only dream about seeing as a fan and living as a pitcher. In five starts, and over 42 innings, Lee gave up one run. ONE. Let that sink in. It’s just silly.
On June 28 against the Boston Red Sox, Lee would complete his third consecutive shutout. After that amazing performance, Lee summed it up with this: “It’s been a good run, no doubt about it. I’ve had a few in my career, but I don’t look back and compare them. I want to throw a shutout every time out there. I never want to give up a run.” In June, it all came together in a perfect storm of an unhittable breaking ball, a riding-inside cut fastball, and a slinky-like curve. At one point, Lee went 34 straight innings without allowing an opposing player to touch home plate.
It all came crashing down in Toronto on July 3 as Lee allowed seven runs, including three homers. That led to a July that was, statistically, his worst month.
August was another peak after the valley of the previous month. And if he hadn’t just completed one of the greatest months in MLB history in June, we’d be talking about Lee’s August for a long time.
Cliff have up only two runs over 39 2/3 innings during the dog days of Summer, quite an accomplishment. His ERA that month? Try 0.45. Lee won all five games that month just as he had in June.
Unfortunately, we’ll remember his less-than-stellar performance in the NLDS against the Cardinals. With the opportunity to put his team up 2-0 in the series, and given a 4-0 lead after the first two innings, Lee faltered, allowing five runs on 12 hits in six innings. He was paid big money to show up in big games and he failed to do so. That being said, the Phillies offense disappeared completely after that quick outburst and couldn’t help Lee overcome a substandard outing.
What we’ll remember from Lee’s season are his ups and downs, his two storybook months, and his sad ending. Truly a roller coaster season filled with more greats than not-so-greats for Lee. Sadly, it left us with a sour taste in our mouths.
GRADE: 9.1/10 - Lee was incredible at many different times during the year, but again, the NLDS loss looms large.