Philadelphia Phillies' starter Cliff Lee had a solid 2012 season, even though his won-loss record (6-9) was highly skewed because of weak run support. Because the 11-year veteran is pitching in the prime of his career, the 2013 season should be a return to normalcy on both personal and team fronts.
Approximately thirty starts, 200 innings, a WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) that scrapes the 1.000 line and more than 15 wins are easily obtainable as long as his left hook stays healthy.
The Phillies famously obtained the Arkansas native from the Cleveland Indians in the summer of 2009, dealt him to the Seattle Mariners in December of that same year and then blew up baseball's hot stove when they signed him to a massive free agent deal twelve months later. Despite rampant rumors that he was potentially going to be traded by last summers' trade deadline, or during this offseason, the 34-year-old is still around.
Basically it was “his turn” last season. Many pitchers, including teammate Cole Hamels have endured the challenge of pitching well and not winning. Those who believe that the win-loss statistic isn't relevant, or underplay its importance as a gauge of a pitcher's effectiveness, overlook a vital character trait that defines most competitive athletes. They want to win every game.
Lee's in-game expressions and postgame demeanor often revealed his increasing frustration as the 2012 season played out. A lack of recorded wins did affect his game to a degree. Anyone who believes that a former Cy Young award-winning pitcher could fight through numerous seasons of low run support, while continuing to indefinitely maintain his composure, must have forgotten what it was like to actually play baseball.
Losing teams lose for simple reasons. Winning teams win because a collective group of highly talented major league players players push through the 162-game grind and then up their game in October.
Lee is a winner who will climb the hill for a team that is ready to win again this season.
The new normal for this era's Phillies' teams isn't accepting .500 baseball. It's reclaiming a spot among next fall's postseason contenders.