Commentary

Behind Cliff Lee's mediocre start

His K's are up, and so are his walks. But the real difference could be the Phillies' D

Originally Published: June 11, 2011
By Ben Jedlovec | Baseball Info Solutions
Cliff LeeHoward Smith/US PresswireCliff Lee's 2011 performance hasn't met expectations so far.

When Philadelphia Phillies fans penciled Cliff Lee in as their No. 2 starter, they imagined a dominant control pitcher who doesn't blow hitters away but keeps runs off the board. A superficial glance at his 2011 numbers shows a mediocre 5-5 record with an ERA of 3.62 -- respectable numbers, but mildly disappointing from a pitcher billed as one of the league's best. A deeper look reveals an interesting contrast in the lefty's past two seasons.

Lee's 10.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2010 was the second-highest in history among qualified starters, behind only Bret Saberhagen's 11.0 in the strike-shortened 1994 season. His 18 walks in 212 1/3 innings gave Lee one of the lowest walk rates in history, while his strikeout rate of 7.8 per nine innings was hardly better than the league average (7.1).