As the Curve Turns: A Philadelphia Story

By Ted Cahill

Cliff Lee took the NL by storm for three weeks. Now the post-trade luster is wearing a little thin.

It’s been well documented that Lee went 5-0 to start his Phillies’ career and that he then lost his next two starts. Last week he got back in the win column, but didn’t pitch especially well against the Nationals. As fantasy baseball heads into the playoffs, which Clifton Phifer Lee can owners expect to show up?

In Lee’s last two starts he has been the victim of bad luck. His BABIP is more than 100 points higher than his season average, sitting at .429. But more of a concern is that Lee has fewer strikeouts than extra base hits allowed. Seven doubles and a home run to just seven strikeouts is not what Lee is known for.

Lee’s strikeout rate is up since joining the NL, but has plummeted since whiffing 11 Diamondbacks on Aug. 19. He continues to not allow walks, always a positive for a pitcher however.

Contrary to popular belief, Lee went through a tough stretch during last year’s Cy Young campaign. In about a month last year, the left-hander’s ERA rose from 0.67 to 2.55 before coming back down. But in those six starts, he actually managed to win four times and lose just once.

Lee is just hitting a rough patch at a bad time for the Phillies and fantasy owners. But long term, I don’t think his struggles are anything to especially worry about. Lee is a talented pitcher that will get back on track and you really can’t afford to not put him in your starting lineup on days he pitches.

Closing time: Also struggling in Philadelphia is Brad Lidge.

Manager Charlie Manuel has seen enough of last year’s dominant reliever and has pulled him off closing duties for the rest of the month, if not longer. What little value Lidge had left is now completely gone.

It’s really been an amazing downfall for Lidge. Just a year ago the only save he blew was in the All-Star game and he seemed like one of the best fantasy options for this season. Now we have to question whether he will even close next year.

In the meantime, grab on to Ryan Madson if he’s still available. Since taking over for Lidge in the middle of the ninth inning Sept. 8 he is four-of-five in save chances. He’s also handled all the save opportunities, except one in the front end of a doubleheader, when Manuel really didn’t want to overuse him. There have been no save opportunities for Brett Myers, who was initially believed to be in the closer mix after the plug was pulled on Lidge.

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Scherzer shutdown?: Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch said the club is likely to shutdown ace-in-waiting Max Scherzer when he reaches about 170 innings.

He stands at 160 innings now, which means he probably will get two more starts before calling it a season. That means Scherzer won’t be pitching in the season’s final week and could miss the second to last one as well. Either way, plan accordingly if you’re relying on Scherzer down the stretch.

Pitcher Pickup of the Week: Wade Davis, Rays

I know this one may sound completely crazy, but I don’t care that Davis is coming off an abysmal performance in Boston. I don’t care that he allowed eight runs in 2 2/3 innings on only six hits. I’ll choose to believe that Davis’ third start will be more like his first, when he held Detroit to one run on three hits in seven innings.

Davis starts against Baltimore this week. The game won’t be taking place in the hitter’s haven known as Fenway Park and it won’t come against a team that can actually score runs. Also, he’s already struck out 12 hitters in 9 2/3 innings, a pretty good rate. As long as the walks aren’t a problem this week, I like the rookie to rebound and make a good outing.