Clifton Phifer "Cliff" Lee (born August 30, 1978) is a Major League Baseball left-handed starting pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. Lee has also played for the Cleveland Indians, the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers.
Professional baseball careerEdit
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.
Following the trade, Lee pitched three 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. 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.
Lee won at least 14 games in each of his first 3 full seasons and tossed more than 200 innings in both 2005 and 2006. In 2005, he finished the season with an 18–5 record and a 3.79 ERA, earning him 4th place in the AL Cy Young Award voting that year. In 2006, the Indians rewarded him with a midseason, 3-year, $14 million contract extension through the 2009 season.
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. 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. He was called back up on September 1 when rosters expanded, but only appeared in 4 games, all out of the bullpen.
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. 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. 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.
On August 26, Lee won his 19th game of the season, yielding only 2 runs to the Detroit Tigers. 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. 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. 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. This made Lee the second straight Indian (and third overall) to win the award, following former teammate CC Sabathia, who won it in 2007.
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.
On July 29 (just before the July 31 trading deadline), the Indians traded Lee—along with outfielder Ben Francisco—to the Philadelphia Phillies, in exchange for Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, and Jason Knapp.
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 SeriesEdit
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. 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. 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. The New York Yankees, however, went on to win their 27th World Series title.
Lee appealed a five game suspension handed down on him for throwing over the head of Chris Snyder during a Spring Training game. Both the suspension and the accompanying fine were overturned. 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 a 89/6 K/BB ratio. However, the Mariners struggled, and Lee was placed on the trade market.
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. He 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. 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 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. He now totals 34 strikeouts and only 1 walk in the 2010 post-season with the Texas Rangers, as of October 18. Lee has also become the first person to pitch three 10-plus strikeout games in one post-season.
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. 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 Renteria, which resulted in a 3–1 loss as the Giants won the series.
Return to PhiladelphiaEdit
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. In returning to the Phillies, Lee said that "he never wanted to leave in the first place."
Lee and his wife Kristen have a son named Jaxon (4/29/01) and a daughter, Maci (4/5/03). Jaxon was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 4 months, but after undergoing treatments, is now in remission. Lee remains very close friends with former teammate CC Sabathia.
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