Cliff Lee

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For other people named Cliff Lee, see Cliff Lee (disambiguation).
Cliff Lee
Cliff Lee in the windup.JPG
Lee pitching in a game on June 10, 2012
Philadelphia Phillies – No. 33
Starting pitcher
Born: (1978-08-30) August 30, 1978 (age 36)
Benton, Arkansas
Bats: Left Throws: Left
MLB debut
September 15, 2002 for the Cleveland Indians
Career statistics
(through July 31, 2014)
Win–loss record 143–91
Earned run average 3.52
Strikeouts 1,824
Shutouts 12
Career highlights and awards

Clifton Phifer Lee (born August 30, 1978) is an American professional baseball starting pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies of Major League Baseball. He stands 6 feet 3 inches (191 cm) and weighs 205 pounds (93 kg). Born in Benton, Arkansas, Lee played baseball at Benton High School and attended Meridian Community College and the University of Arkansas.

After playing with the Montreal Expos minor-league affiliate the Harrisburg Senators, Lee was traded to the Cleveland Indians and was called up to the major leagues earlier that season. He was traded to the Phillies in 2009 and went to the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers before returning to the Phillies in 2011. A four-time All-Star, Lee won the American League Cy Young Award in 2008 as a member of the Indians after he led the American League in wins and lowest earned run average (ERA). In 2009, Lee started two games for the Phillies against the New York Yankees in the World Series. He earned a win in both of his starts, which included a complete game in Game 1, though the Yankees went on to win 4–2.

Lee is a southpaw with three fastballs: a two-seam, four-seam and cutter. His pitches also include a slider, curveball and change-up.

Professional baseball career[edit]

Lee was drafted by the Florida Marlins with the 12th pick of the 8th round of the 1997 Major League Baseball Draft out of Benton High School in his hometown of Benton, Arkansas, but instead chose to attend Meridian Community College in Mississippi. Later, Lee was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 20th round of the 1998 amateur draft, but did not sign, opting to attend the University of Arkansas.

In the 2000 amateur draft, he was chosen in the 4th round by the Montreal Expos and signed in July of that year. During 2002, Lee played for Double-A Harrisburg, and compiled a 7–2 record with a 3.23 ERA in Eastern League play by mid-summer.

Cleveland Indians (2002–09)[edit]

Lee pitching for the Cleveland Indians on April 18, 2008.

In June 2002, the Expos traded Lee along with Brandon Phillips, Lee Stevens, and Grady Sizemore to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Bartolo Colón and Tim Drew.[1]

Following the trade, Lee pitched seven games with the Akron Aeros before he was promoted to the Buffalo Bisons, the Triple A affiliate within the Cleveland farm system. He compiled a 3–2 record with the Bisons before being called up to the Indians during September of that season. Lee made his major league debut in a start against the Minnesota Twins on September 15, 2002, giving up a lone run in 5.1 innings, resulting in a loss due to lack of run support.[2] He pitched once more that season, giving up one run in five innings against the Kansas City Royals, resulting in a no decision for Lee but a loss for the team.[3]

Lee won at least 14 games in each of his first 3 full seasons and pitched more than 200 innings in both 2005 and 2006. He finished the 2005 season with an 18–5 record and a 3.79 ERA, earning him 4th place in the AL Cy Young Award voting that year.[4] In 2006, the Indians rewarded him with a midseason, 3-year, $14 million contract extension through the 2009 season.[5]

2007 season[edit]

In 2007, Lee suffered a groin strain during a spring training start, forcing him to begin the regular season on the disabled list. He returned to the Indians rotation in May, but struggled to a 4–9 record and a 5.38 ERA in his first 16 starts. On July 21, Lee hit Texas Rangers' right fielder Sammy Sosa in the head with a pitch on a night when the Rangers were honoring Sosa for hitting his 600th home run. The beaning sparked an altercation between Lee and Indians' catcher Víctor Martínez and led to a players-only meeting immediately after the game.[6] Lee encountered even more problems on July 26, 2007, when he gave up 7 runs in 4 innings against the Boston Red Sox. When he left the ballgame, the fans booed him and right before he entered the dugout, he tipped his cap to the fans. The next day, July 27, the struggling left-hander was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo.[7] He was called back up on September 1 when rosters expanded, but only appeared in 4 games, all out of the bullpen.

2008 season[edit]

In 2008, Lee had a career year. Despite the Indians playing with a .500 winning percentage for the season, Lee started the 2008 season with much success. Lee was one of only eight pitchers since 1920 to win 19 or more of his first 21 decisions. He was the first Cleveland pitcher to win his first six starts since Greg Swindell in 1988. He also recorded his first career shutout on April 25, 2008, against the Kansas City Royals, allowing just 3 hits and 0 walks.[8] He had the lowest On-base percentage-against at .163 through five starts since 1909. For his efforts and success, he was named the American League Pitcher of the Month for April, when he went 5–0 with a 0.96 ERA.[9] Lee was selected to his first All-Star game in 2008, and was selected to start the game. Lee worked two scoreless innings for the American League team, surrendering only a Chipper Jones base hit and striking out three.[10]

Lee at the 2008 All-Star Game parade

On August 26, Lee won his 19th game of the season, yielding only 2 runs to the Detroit Tigers.[11] This victory set a new career high for Lee, besting his previous mark of 18 wins set during the 2005 season. On September 1, Lee won his 20th game of the season, throwing a shutout. He was the first Indian to reach 20 wins since Gaylord Perry in 1974.[12] In August, for the second time in the 2008 season, Lee was named American League Pitcher of the Month. He went 5–0 with a 1.86 ERA in the month. On September 12, Lee won his 22nd game, making his record 22–2 on the season. This marked the first time a pitcher had gone 20 wins over .500 since Bob Welch in 1990.[13] Overall to end the year, Lee went 22–3 with a 2.54 ERA and 170 strikeouts. He started 31 games, completed 4, and had 2 shutouts. He pitched a total of 223⅓ innings. Lee ended the season as the American League champion for both wins and ERA.

Lee's 2008 winning percentage of 88% was the twelfth best of all time, and the fourth best by a pitcher starting a minimum of 30 games, Behind only Randy Johnson, Ron Guidry, and Lefty Grove (all also left-handers). Lee's winning percentage is the second best in Indians history, behind Johnny Allen's 93.8% (15 wins, 1 loss, in 24 games) in 1937.

Lee earned several awards following his 2008 season. These included the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award, the Players Choice Award for AL Outstanding Pitcher of the Year, The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award, The Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year Award, and the Warren Spahn Award for best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball. On November 13, 2008, Lee was awarded the AL Cy Young Award.[14] This made Lee the second straight Indian (and third overall) to win the award, following former teammate CC Sabathia, who won it in 2007.

2009 season[edit]

Lee's debut with the Phillies in 2009

On June 14, 2009, Lee took a no-hitter into the 8th inning vs. St. Louis, striking out 6 and walking 2. Lee allowed 3 hits in a complete-game shutout, improving his record to 4–6 and his ERA to 2.88.

Philadelphia Phillies (2009)[edit]

On July 29 (just before the July 31 trading deadline), the Indians traded Lee—along with outfielder Ben Francisco—to the Philadelphia Phillies, the defending World Series Champions, in exchange for Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, and Jason Knapp.[15]

In his first career game with the Philadelphia Phillies, Lee pitched a complete game in a 5–1 victory. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and had two hits as a batter, including his first career double and a run scored. Through his first five games with the Phillies, Lee amassed a 5–0 record, 39 strikeouts in 40 innings pitched, and a 0.68 ERA.

2009 World Series[edit]

Charlie Manuel named Lee his Game 1 starter for the World Series after he posted a 2–0 record in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Lee would be pitching against his former Indians teammate C.C. Sabathia.

Lee pitched a complete game in Game 1 of the 2009 World Series, winning the game 6–1 over the New York Yankees. He allowed no earned runs during this outing.[16][17] He was the first pitcher since Deacon Phillippe in Game 1 of the 1903 World Series to pitch a complete game in the World Series with 10 or more strikeouts and no walks. Because Phillippe allowed two earned runs in his start, Lee was the first to do so without allowing an earned run.[18] In his next start (Game 5), Lee earned another victory, allowing five runs and three walks while striking out three in seven innings; the Phillies won, 8–6. Despite winning both of his starts, the Phillies lost the series in six games to the Yankees.

Seattle Mariners (2010)[edit]

Lee pitching for the Seattle Mariners in 2010

On December 16, 2009, the Phillies traded Lee to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for J. C. Ramírez, Phillippe Aumont and Tyson Gillies.[19][20]

Lee appealed a five game suspension handed down on him for throwing over the head of Chris Snyder during a Spring Training game.[21] Both the suspension and the accompanying fine were overturned.[22] Lee made his Mariners debut against the Texas Rangers on April 30, where he earned a no-decision in a 2–0 Mariners loss. He got his first win with the Mariners on May 11, in a 5–1 win against the Baltimore Orioles. Lee pitched 3 consecutive complete games in June. He made the 2010 AL All-Star team but attended as a Ranger. With the Mariners, Lee went 8–3 with a 2.34 ERA, an 0.945 WHIP, and an 89/6 K/BB ratio. However, the Mariners struggled, and Lee was placed on the trade market.[23]

Texas Rangers (2010)[edit]

On July 9, after a deal with the New York Yankees broke down, Lee was traded to the Texas Rangers with Mark Lowe for Justin Smoak and prospects Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Matt Lawson.[24]

On August 6 against the Oakland Athletics, Lee earned his 100th career win going eight innings and allowing only one run with seven strikeouts.

Lee pitched Game 1 of the American League Division Series against Tampa Bay on October 6, 2010, same day when Phillies' pitcher Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter against the Reds in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. Lee threw 7 innings, gave up one run, no walks, and struck out 10. There have been eight post-season pitching performances of at least 10 strikeouts and no walks in baseball history, of which Lee has pitched the last four, including two in the 2010 ALDS. In Game 5 of the series, Lee set the ALDS series strikeout record and tied the MLB record with 21. He pitched a complete game, striking out eleven batters and allowing one run, getting the win. Lee also has the highest strikeout since with 11 when dealing with a winner take all situation.

Lee pitching in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series

Lee continued his postseason mastery into the 2010 ALCS, when he allowed just two hits while striking out 13 New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in an 8–0 Texas victory in Game 3.[25] Lee has also become the first person to pitch three 10-plus strikeout games in one post-season.[26]

However, facing the San Francisco Giants' Tim Lincecum in the 2010 World Series, Lee gave up seven runs (six earned) and did not make it through five innings, en route to an 11–7 loss.[27] Lee faced Lincecum again in Game 5 of the World Series with the Giants having a 3–1 series advantage, but he surrendered a three-run home run to Edgar Rentería, which resulted in a 3–1 loss as the Giants won the series.[28]

Philadelphia Phillies (2011–present)[edit]

2011 season[edit]

On December 15, 2010, Lee signed a free-agent contract with Philadelphia for 5 years and $120 million with a vesting option for a sixth year.[29][30] He joined a rotation consisting of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton at the start of the season, and in doing so, had commentators dub it one of the best rotations ever assembled.[31][32][33][34] Halladay, Oswalt, Lee, and Hamels were dubbed the 'Phantastic Phour' by fans and the media.[33] In returning to the Phillies despite the higher guaranteed money offered by the Yankees, Lee cited the chance to win a World Series ring; the strength of the staff; the chance to throw to a pitcher instead of a designated hitter in the National League; the regular sellouts; and the passion of the fans. He said "I never wanted to leave in the first place".[29]

On April 2, 2011, Lee's first start back with the Phillies, he pitched seven innings, allowing four hits and three runs, while striking out eleven and walking none. On May 6, he struck out a career-high 16 Atlanta Braves, allowing three runs in a 5–0 Philadelphia loss.[35] On June 28, Lee pitched a third consecutive complete game shutout in a 5–0 victory over the Boston Red Sox.[36] Lee was awarded with the National League Pitcher of the Month award for the month of June. Lee went 5–0 and had a 0.21 ERA. Lee threw 3 consecutive shutouts and had a scoreless streak of 34 innings. By the end of that month, he had also personally outscored teams he opposed (he scored 2 runs in the month while only allowing 1 run).[37]

On July 9, Lee hit his first major league home run against Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves after a ten-pitch at-bat. Although the Phillies would eventually lose the game, 4–1, with Lee providing the only Phillies run, it was the first home run by a Phillies pitcher since Chan Ho Park in April 2009. Lee then went on to hit his second major league home run on August 9 against Ted Lilly of the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the same game, Lee also recorded his 17th career double-digit strikeout game in a 2–1 Phillies win. [38]

On Sept 26, 2011, Lee was the winning pitcher in a 4–2 game against the Atlanta Braves. Pitching 6 innings of 5 hit 2 run ball, striking out 6 and walking none. He finished up the regular season with a 17–8 record, but more significantly helped the Philadelphia Phillies to a 100-win season. It marks the third time in franchise history that the Phillies have won 100 or more games in a season.[39] He also led the MLB in shutouts with 6, the most shutouts for any major league starter since Tim Belcher threw 8 in 1989 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In the postseason, despite having the best regular season for a second year and again tipped to win the World Series, the Phillies were eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. Lee started Game Two where he surrendered 5 runs, as the Cardinals made a comeback from a 0-4 deficit to win 5-4. The Cardinals eventually defeated Lee's former team, the Texas Rangers, in seven games to win the World Series.

2012 season[edit]

Lee received poor run support throughout the entire 2012 season, especially the first half. April 18, 2012 in a game against the San Francisco Giants, Lee threw 10 shutout innings but the Phillies went on to lose the game. On April 21, 2012, Cliff Lee was placed on the disabled list with an oblique strain. Despite pitching well throughout the spring, Lee finally earned his first win of the 2012 season on July 4 when he pitched eight innings, allowing two runs while striking out 9 in a 9-2 road victory over the New York Mets. Lee's streak of 13 winless starts was the longest of any former Cy Young Award winner since Greg Maddux in 2008.[40] On September 17, Lee recorded his 1,500th career strikeout in a game against the New York Mets.[41] He finished the season 6-9, despite a respectable ERA of 3.16, which was below his career average, and the lowest walks per nine innings rate in the National League, at 1.2.

2013 season[edit]

Lee started the 2013 season as the Phillies' third starter. In his first start against the Braves, he threw eight scoreless innings and got the win in the Phillies' 2-0 victory.[42] He would finish the season with a record of 14-8, an ERA of 2.87, 222 strikeouts, and a 1.3 BB/9 rate, which was once again the best in the National League.

2014 season[edit]

After Cole Hamels was sidelined with an injury, Lee was named the Phillies opening day starter, starting against the Texas Rangers.[43] He pitched five innings and got the win, despite allowing eight runs. Lee was put on the disabled list in May for a left elbow strain and he began to throw again on June 10.[44] He made his return from the disabled list on July 21st, only to come out of a game early on the 31st of July again experiencing elbow discomfort.

Pitching style[edit]

Lee's repertoire includes two fastballs (four-seam, two-seam) that reach 90-93 mph, an 85-88 mph cut fastball, an occasional slider, as well as a circle changeup and a curveball.[45]

Lee usually appears stoic and confident on the mound. It is considered one of his greatest attributes when pitching in pressure situations.[46]


Lee and his wife Kristen have a son named Jaxon and a daughter, Maci. Jaxon was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of four months, but after undergoing treatments, is currently in remission.[47] The family lives in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood of Philadelphia.[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Indians deal Colon for Stevens, prospects". June 28, 2002. Retrieved March 6, 2009. 
  2. ^ Withers, Tom (September 15, 2002). "Twins wrap up AL Central title". USA Today. Retrieved September 1, 2008. 
  3. ^ "Tucker's clutch single gives Royals a boost". September 21, 2002. Retrieved September 1, 2008. 
  4. ^ "COLON 1ST ANGELS' CY YOUNG WINNER IN 41 YEARS". Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA). 2005. Retrieved September 1, 2008. 
  5. ^ "Indians sign Lee to three-year, $14M extension". August 8, 2006. Retrieved September 1, 2008. 
  6. ^ Hoynes, Paul (July 23, 2007). "Cleveland Indians' meeting called after Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez have altercations". Cleveland Live, Inc. Retrieved July 26, 2007. 
  7. ^ "Indians send Cliff Lee down to minors". Cleveland Live, Inc. July 27, 2007. Retrieved July 27, 2007. 
  8. ^ Castrovince, Anthony (April 25, 2008). "Lee completely dominant in nightcap". Retrieved September 1, 2008. 
  9. ^ Briggs, David (May 3, 2008). "Lee named AL Pitcher of the Month". Retrieved September 1, 2008. 
  10. ^ Hoch, Bryan (July 16, 2008). "Night is Young: AL walks off in 15th". Retrieved September 1, 2008. 
  11. ^ Castrovince, Anthony (August 26, 2008). "Lee wins No. 19 for Tribe's ninth straight". Retrieved September 1, 2008. 
  12. ^ Herrick, Steve (September 1, 2008). "Dominant Lee breaks 20-win mark". Retrieved September 1, 2008. 
  13. ^ Gribble, Andrew (September 12, 2008). "Lee wins 22nd as Indians rout Royals Left-hander first hurler to be 20 games above .500 since 1990". Retrieved November 22, 2008. 
  14. ^ "Cy Young Award winners". Retrieved October 19, 2010. 
  15. ^ Castrovince, Anthony, "Lee, Francisco traded to Phillies: Indians acquire four top prospects in six-player pact", July 29, 2009. Cleveland Indians official website; MLB Advanced Media, L.P. Retrieved September 29, 2009.
  16. ^ World Series Game 1 Final: Phillies 6, Yankees 1 New York Times
  17. ^ Game 1 Recap –, ESPN, October 29, 2009.
  18. ^ Retrosheet Boxscore: Pittsburgh Pirates 7, Boston Americans 3, Retrosheet, October 29, 2009.
  19. ^ Mariners finalize deal with Phils for Lee
  20. ^ Baker, Geoff (December 16, 2009). "It's a done deal — Mariners acquire Cliff Lee". The Seattle Times (Seattle, Washington: Frank A. Blethen). Associated Press. Retrieved July 2, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Yahoo! Sports – Sports News, Scores, Rumors, Fantasy Games, and more". Retrieved October 18, 2010. 
  22. ^ By Doug Miller / (April 20, 2010). "MLB rescinds Lee's suspension | News". Retrieved October 18, 2010. 
  23. ^ [1][dead link]
  24. ^ By T.R. Sullivan / (June 29, 2010). "Rangers acquire Lee from Mariners | News". Retrieved October 18, 2010. 
  25. ^ Evan Grant (October 18, 2010). "Rangers 8, Yankees 0: Cliff Lee dominates Yankees; more baseball to be played in Arlington". Retrieved October 18, 2010. 
  26. ^ Koster, Kyle; (October 19, 2010). "Not breaking: Cliff Lee is really, really good;". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 21, 2010. 
  27. ^ "Rangers get shellacked in Series debut". October 27, 2010. Retrieved May 9, 2012. 
  28. ^ "Rangers' title dreams dashed by Lincecum". Retrieved May 9, 2012. 
  29. ^ a b Longman, Jere (December 16, 2010). "Lee Returns, Saying He 'Never Wanted to Leave'". New York Times. p. B13. 
  30. ^ Vecsey, George (February 27, 2011). "Tosses and Turns of Yankees-Phillies". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 27, 2011. 
  31. ^ Divish, Ryan (March 28, 2011). "Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay, Joe Blanton, Cliff Lee". The News Tribune. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  32. ^ Corcoran, Cliff (September 21, 2011). "Phillies' much-hyped rotation even better than expected". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  33. ^ a b "Phillies' "Phantastic Phour" rotation arrives". WTSP. February 14, 2011. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  34. ^ Stark, Jayson (December 14, 2010). "Measuring Phillies' rotation historically". ESPN. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  35. ^ "Lowe outduels Lee, Braves beat Phillies 5–4". Sports Illustrated. May 6, 2011. Retrieved May 7, 2011. 
  36. ^ D.J. Short (June 28, 2011). "Cliff Lee delivers third consecutive complete game shutout". NBC Sports. Retrieved July 2, 2011. 
  37. ^ Jayson Stark (June 29, 2011). "Cliff Lee put together a historic June". Retrieved May 9, 2012. 
  38. ^ Matt Gelbmagelb (August 10, 2011). "Cliff Lee Bashes Second Home Run of Season, Phils Win". Retrieved May 9, 2012. 
  39. ^ "Offense keeps clicking; Phils reach 100 wins". (MLB). September 26, 2011. Retrieved September 26, 2011. 
  40. ^ Zack Berman (July 4, 2012). "Phillies’ Lee Stops Mets for First Win This Year". The New York Times. 
  41. ^ Zolecki, Todd (September 17, 2012). "Cliff makes Mets whiff, has Phils thinking Wild". (Major League Baseball Advanced Media). Retrieved September 18, 2012. 
  42. ^ "Lee allows 2 hits in 8 scoreless innings as Philadelphia earns 1st victory". The Washington Post. Associated Press. April 4, 2013. Retrieved April 5, 2013. [dead link]
  43. ^ "Cliff Lee gets the start in Phillies season opener". Retrieved March 31, 2013. 
  44. ^ Lawrence, Ryan (June 11, 2014). "Cliff Lee plays catch for first time in 3 weeks". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved June 14, 2014. 
  45. ^ FanGraphs Cliff Lee Pitch FX
  46. ^, Cliff Lee Biogprahy, accessed August 19, 2013.
  47. ^ Cliff Lee: Biography and Career Highlights at
  48. ^ Stamm, Dan. "Cliff Lee's Moving Back to Rittenhouse". Retrieved March 27, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Fausto Carmona (September 2007)
Jon Lester
American League Pitcher of the month
April 2008
August 2008
Succeeded by
Scott Kazmir
Jon Lester
Preceded by
Dan Haren
American League All-Star Game Starting Pitcher
Succeeded by
Roy Halladay
Preceded by
CC Sabathia
Players Choice AL Outstanding Pitcher
Succeeded by
Zack Greinke
Preceded by
Carlos Peña
Players Choice AL Comeback Player of the Year
Succeeded by
Aaron Hill
Preceded by
Grady Sizemore[citation needed]
Cleveland BBWA Player of the Year Award
Succeeded by