Cliff Lee’s A Lumberjack.

Hitterish.

Phils are leading the Reds 9-4 in the 8th of their series ending affair this afternoon as I type this post.  Cliff Lee has had a hand in about everything.  He blew a 4-0 lead, but since has rallied with 2 hits and 3 RBIs to push the boys back in front.  If the Phillies bullpen hadn’t thrown 1.3 million pitches last night, Lee might not even have gotten his chance to wield the lumber, but one of the reasons he said he wanted to come to Philly was to hit, so he might as well be productive up there from time to time.  The victim was Cincy’s “take one for the team” man, Daryl Thompson.  I don’t think the Phillies took into account Lee’s offense when they dropped 125 million on him, or whatever the total was.  Maybe they should have.

Is it a bad time to bring up that Lee hasn’t really been worth the money yet on the mound?  Aside from a few brilliant performances Lee has been pretty average except for his strike out rate, which doesn’t really matter when you are giving up big innings and blowing leads.  Don’t get me wrong, Lee more often than not looks like a top-10 pitcher in the NL, but is that really what we were paying him for?  Cliff already has 4 or 5 “Blantons” this year.  Six innings, 3 runs.   Five innings, 4 runs.  Today he couldn’t protect a four run lead.  As an aside, why do the Phillies let the same guys kill them over and over again?  How many RBIs does Jay Bruce have to pile up in this series?

Getting back to Lee, I guess I am just saying I’d like a bit more consistency.  I know he was signed for the post-season so we can’t really judge until we get to that point, but the Phillies do need him to win his share before he gets there.  I know the advanced stat people will praise his strikeouts and his ERA+ and fielding independent pitching, but I do think those stats can miss some things.  And, perhaps they put too much weight on the dominant outings?  Lee’s best is certainly among the absolute best of any pitcher in the league, but how often does he get there?

There is part of me too that wants to get back to the time when the pitcher took a little more responsibility.  Kind of like the quarterback in football.  Some things aren’t necessarily in his control, but how about taking the brunt?  I’ve never heard of a stat, “passing independent receiving.”  Sure, we know when a guy is the victim of some drops, but it all usually falls on the QB’s head, and I think that should be the case with pitchers some of the time.  Ok, you don’t get run support, but I think sometimes you have to make adjustments, rise to the occasion.  I suppose the advanced stats don’t believe in such things, because each game is played out mathematically, but at the end of the day people still want to know if you won the game.

So, that’s my little Cliff Lee mini-rant, on a nice easy afternoon where the Phillies manage to level off at 10-10 for their stretch against contenders (not too bad in the end).  They scored 28 runs in the four game series against the Reds and have some lesser teams coming up to maintain the momentum…hopefully.  I like Cliff Lee a lot, but I could already hear people explaining away his game today if the Phillies didn’t retake the lead and win (the game has ended, 10-4 as I continue to ramble on here).   I know he pitched well in the post-season, and nonchalantly caught a pop-up, but there are guys on the team I like a little better.  And, there are guys who probably deserve some of the slack that Lee is given in spades.

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Feasting on Offensive Futility Day 3:

Well, this is far easier than picking actual games.  Even with a 3 game sample, I can see that.  The A’s managed to do their usual against the Angels last night and I cruised to another under, bringing my record to 2-1.  This is the first time I’ve head my head above water in any type of baseball betting scenario.  You’re welcome.  Today, I’m stuck with quite the dilemma.  Only two night games.  Should I show discipline and take the night off, or keep firing away?  Think we all know the answer to that:

Today’s selection:  Chicago and Toronto Under 8.0.

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Quiz of the Day:  This Day in History: June__.  Category: Actual Knowledge.  My Score: 23/30*

Two spelling look ups.

I Left, What of It?

So, just about every single person who reads this blog has asked me at this point if I stayed for all 19 innings.  Yes, I’ve gotten upwards of 6 or 7 text messages about it.  I left after 12.  The middle of the Phillies order had just gone quietly, it looked like Cincy was going to have the next best chance to score, and so I made the executive decision.  I was sitting by myself at this point.  My fellow attendees had already left to catch a train.  The thought of sitting by myself for what would have been over 2 hours isn’t too appealing.  I’m not one to strike up random friendships in the stands.  And, had the Phillies lost in say 17 innings?  God, that would have been awful.  Of course, they didn’t though, and now I look a bit like a baby.

In fact, on the drive home, somewhere around inning 14 I was listening to LA and what’s his face, Franzke(?) on the radio broadcast and they were whining incessantly about how long the game was going and how late it was.  They were making all the stupid jokes, “oh, what day is it?”  “If the game ends by tomorrow.”  Yuk, yuk, yuk.  Of course, at that point it was only 11:30, and I found myself ripping them for complaining about still being on the air.  Then I realized I had already left the stadium and didn’t have much room to talk.  But, it’s not my job to be there.  The radio guys seem to be getting very sarcastic, kind of lost in their own little world of inside jokes, I don’t know if that is because they think no one is listening, or what, but they bother me.

Regardless, it was quite a game that unfolded after I left.  Sort of.  It may have been the most boring eight innings of baseball ever played followed by Wilson Valdez getting a win and Ruiz manning 3rd base.  One thing the old-timers always grumble about is that they like baseball because there is no clock.  In football they would have tied.  In hockey they would have forced an outcome.  In basketball you run out of steam a lot quicker.  But, in baseball, you got the feeling that they might really be out there all night.  The hitters on both sides obviously were in a fog after the 11th or so.  After blowing chances on both sides there really wasn’t a threat to be had for almost an entire game’s worth of innings.  And, that was against the dregs of the bullpen.

The Reds allowed Halladay to wiggle out of trouble, the Phillies couldn’t hit a sacrifice fly to save their lives, Charlie Manuel made some very questionable decisions with his pinch-hitters, the teams traded solo homers in the 10th.  It was a gosh darn crazy night that probably should have never happened.

Valdez was the first Phillies position player to pitch since Tomas Perez went 1/3 of an inning in a blowout loss in 2002. If I remember correctly, Perez and Valdez have similar stuff.  Going back further than that I have to rely on my better than average mid-80s Phillies knowledge to remember other position players trying their hand on the mound.  Glenn Wilson went one shutout inning in a blowout in 1987.  Wilson had a great arm in RF and likely had plenty of high school pitching experience to fall back on.  And of course, Greg Gross baffled the Expos with an array of breaking stuff in 1986, striking out 2 in a scoreless frame.  So, it appears that the Phillies have pretty good success with these guys on the hill.  Maybe Charlie shouldn’t be so stubborn.  Valdez’s win was the first by a position player since Brent Mayne, and the first by a player who started in the field since Babe Ruth.  Somewhere Kirkjian and Stark are preparing dueling soliloquies.