On Monday night, Phillies starter Cliff Lee put together another masterful performance, throwing his sixth complete game shutout of the season, holding the division rival Atlanta Braves to just five hits over the game.
Looking at Lee’s body of work as it stands now for the entire season, its time to give the lefthander serious consideration in the Cy-Young Award race.
Lee’s 2.47 ERA is the fourth best in all of baseball, third in the National League, behind Johnny Cueto’s 2.22 (he has only pitched 145.1 innings to Lee’s 203.2) and Clayton Kershaw’s 2.45.
Lee’s six shutouts are the most by any pitcher in baseball this year. It’s the first time a pitcher has had at least six shutouts in a season since Randy Johnson did it back in 1998. The only National League pitchers that have more than one shutout are Jaime Garcia and Clayton Kershaw, both with two.
During the game, Lee recorded six strikeouts, putting his total for the season at 204, the first time in his career his has eclipsed the 200 strikeout mark. He’s tied for fifth in the league lead for strikeouts, and is second in the National League behind Kershaw.
While Halladay is having an excellent season of his own, he doesn’t the individual achievements to strengthen his case like Lee does. A year ago, the All-Star had four shutouts, and a perfect game. The right-hander has seven complete games this season, but none of them have gone for shutouts. In fact, he has had only had four starts all season in which he hasn’t given up a run.
In addition to his six complete game shutouts, Lee has had five other starts in which he hasn’t allowed a run, giving him a total of 11 scoreless starts. He’s been named the pitcher of month for June when he went 5-0 with an ERA of 0.21, and figures to earn that honor again for August after going 5-0 with an ERA of 0.45.
Right now, the best argument that can be made for Halladay to win the award over Lee is that he’s been a model of consistency throughout the season. While he doesn’t have a single shutout, he’s only given up more than three runs in four starts all season. His ERA is also right there with Lee’s at 2.49.
Lee got off to a bit of a rocky start when he struggled with his mechanics and location in April and May, but has been simply unbelievable since the calendar turned to June. His achievements since then have allowed him to force his way into the Cy-Young conversation. What he’s done since the end of May has overshadowed Halladay’s body of work to this point. While there is still another month in the regular season that has to be played out, as of this writing, Lee deserves the nod over Halladay.