Originally posted on Fantasy Baseball 365  |  Last updated 3/18/12

Key Stats: Cliff Lee is like a fine wine. At age 32 last season, he had the best year of his career. He had an 0.45 ERA in the month of August and that was bad compared to the June that he had. He demolished his best strikeout and ERA seasons, threw more innings, and had six complete game shutouts. We can say that he was lucky, and to an extent he was, but he was also as dominant as ever.

Skeptics Say: Both Lee’s FIP and xFIP were higher than his ERA. Also, he will be 33 this season. Pitching as well as he did at age 32 isn’t quite unheard of, but replicating last season will be a very tall order. Lee had just a 9.3% swing and miss rate, but managed a K% close to 26%. By comparison, John Danks also had a 9.3% swing and miss rate, but had a K% of 18.5%. Lee does rely on called strikes of course, but expect this number to drop anyway.

 

Peer Comparison: Roy Halladay is the number one pitcher according to CBS and Tristan Cockcroft. I’m much more inclined to rank Halladay like Yahoo does by having them essentially right next to each other on the starting pitcher board, and only six spots apart overall (I think they’re actually even closer than that as you’ll see). Head to head leagues can take this Halladay versus Lee monthly breakdown of top 50 player rankings by month into account:

Player

Sept 2011

Aug 2011

July 2011

June 2011

May 2011

April 2011

Cliff

10

1

x

4

x

x

Roy

15

x

41

37

x

13

What this suggests is that when Lee is hot he can carry a team. Halladay was ranked 7th overall last season (just one spot ahead of Lee) and has a more consistent past, but did not have the overall dominance that Lee did last season. For head to head leagues, getting the player that is capable of getting hot is probably more valuable given the greater emphasis on one month of the season versus the other months.

Team Outlook: Hunter Pence will probably be this team’s best fantasy and real hitter this season, but the Phillies have gotten encouraging news regarding Chase Utley and Ryan Howard recently. Utley could be ready by Opening Day and the Phillies believe Howard’s achilles has healed, so the rehab won’t be as long as it could have been. The two players health is certainly concerning, but not enough to detract from Lee’s projections. Don’t forget both players were hurt and performing below their past standards last season too.

What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline: #4 Starting Pitcher; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #4 Starting Pitcher & #19 Overall; Yahoo: #4 Starting Pitcher & #24 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP: #4 Starting Pitcher & #33 Overall; RotoChamp: #13 Overall

Projection: The strikeouts will come down a little, but they will still be higher than they had been in 2009 or 2010. Lee’s control and ability to hit spots is what enables him to get strikeouts – not swings and misses.
18 wins 2.89 ERA 1.04 WHIP 213 K in 233 innings

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