CLIFF LEE, right? (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Before the recap, let's do a little trivia about 2012:
The Phillies have two left-handed starting pitchers. Starter A strikes out 9.2 batters per 9 innings. He walks 2.2 batters per 9 innings. His groundball percentage is 43.9%. He gives up 1.0 homers a game. Starter B strikes out 9.1, walks 1.8, and gives up 1.0 homers per nine innings and his groundball percentage is 48.2%. Pitcher A has an xFIP of 3.15 while Pitcher B has an xFIP of 2.91. One has a record of 10 - 2. One has a record of 0 - 4 (prior to tonight). So baseball is a bitch, right? Tonight, we watched Pitcher B say, "Thank you 2012, may I have another?"
I watched tonight not with any sense that the Phillies would win, but rather to see if I could pick up on just why Lee is not getting the same results that he got last year. I really could not give you a better answer than, "he's finding the middle of the plate more-ish." No matter the reason, the outcomes were bad, at least in the first, third, and fifth innings during which the Marlins scored 1, 2, and 3 runs. I was concerned that the progression would be 5 in the 7th, and 7 in the 9th, but the Marlins didn't get the "score increasing, consecutive prime numbers of runs in odd innings" memo, and in any case, the Phillies had taken Lee out by the end of the 5th.
According to Baseball Reference, Lee had 1.6 pitching WAR accumulated so far this year prior to this start, with typically good peripherals. Fangraphs has the numbers I referenced above, and shows Lee even closer to Hamels in WAR. Strand rate variability and BABIP? Or am I just grasping at straws? You figure it out. I'm intellectually bankrupt. A dreary recap follows the jump.
Visiting the Marlins garishly new stadium in Miami, the Phillies fell to the Marlins tonight in yet another frustrating start by Cliff Lee. Lee's nightmare season continued with a 4.2 inning outing resulting in 6 runs. Lee was nicked early on by a number of grounders finding the hole between short and third, but he was definitely hit hard tonight, especially toward the end. While my rational brain wants to believe that Cliff Lee will rebound, I've been hit in the face this year so many times, that I am starting to doubt. I am reacting to stimuli like a baboon. In my heart, I fear that this is not the Cliff Lee not of last June, but not of 2011.
Still, I refuse to go down the dark road of an emotional response to yet another gut punch of a game, and that it was.
Aside from an opposite field homer by Hunter Pence that cut the Marlin's early lead to 3 - 1, it was yet another disappointing, maddening game of joylessness. The TV team was reduced to showing the go-go girls in one dining section of the field and talking about the other features of the Marlins' new park. Compared to the product on the field tonight, perhaps that made sense.
Josh Johnson was pretty good, as he tends to be. He threw six innings, giving up 1 run on 6 K's, 2 walks, 4 hits (including the Pence homer). He was lifted because he did not work a particularly efficient 6 innings, but he got the job done, and well.
Lee gave up 10 hits over his 4.2 innings, giving up 2 walks to go with 3 strikeouts and 6 runs.
HItting highlights? All Marlins, other than the Pence homer (and a later RBI single by Pence in garbage time). Justin Ruggiano was 3 - 4 with 2 RBI, and hit everything hard, including a double to the right center gap that Shane Victorino could not track down. Giancarlo Stanton was 2 - 3 with a walk and an RBI. There were no knockout blows - just a string of hit, hit, hit, double. That sort of thing. Even when the Marlins blew it (when Stanton was inexplicably held at third on a ball hit to the Nerf-armed Juan Pierre), it didn't hurt them (Stanton scored anyway on a sacrifice fly).
Fangraph of distressingly familiar outcomes: