Some might call it hyperbole. Some may say it’s an overreaction to what was a legendary performance. But either way, the dominant Texas lefty is the best postseason pitcher of all time.
Not only does Lee have the stats to back up that claim, he also has that intangible of showing up in the big games. It’s the intangible that makes Curt Schilling one of the all-time greats in the postseason. Guys like them always seem to show up when it matters most.
On Monday night, in front of almost 60,000 Yankees fans, Lee showed up in the biggest way possible. The left-hander was as close to unhittable as you can be without throwing a no-hitter. And he did it all in a Game 3 that many consider a swing game in a seven-game series.
Lee’s line was something seemingly out of a video game, and a video game that’s not very challenging at that. He went eight innings, didn’t allow a run, surrendered only two hits and struck out 13. He would have certainly finished it off had the Rangers not pushed their lead to 8-0 in the top of the ninth.
The 32-year-old also continued his domination of the Yankees. He picked up two wins in the 2009 World Series as a member of the Phillies before picking up win No. 3 Monday at Yankee Stadium. He lowered his ERA against the Bombers in the playoffs to 1.88. That’s impressive enough, but it’s even more impressive when you factor in that he gave up an uncharacteristic five earned runs in Game 5 of last year’s Fall Classic, a game he still managed to win.
The 13 strikeouts are a playoff career-high for Lee. It was a performance that will stand the test of time as literally one of the greatest in playoffs history. One of the greatest for the greatest.
Don’t agree? There are also Lee’s career playoff numbers. All too often words like “unbelievable” and “unreal” are thrown around in sports. With Lee, those adjectives don’t even really do him justice and there aren’t enough superlatives in the world to describe performances like Lee’s on Monday night.
Detailed statistical breakdowns will come in the coming days. As for the basic statistics, those are pretty darn impressive, too.
Lee is now 7-0 in eight playoff starts. The only other pitchers to win their first seven decisions are Orlando Hernandez and Orel Hershiser. On top of that, Lee’s postseason ERA for his career is an incredible 1.26. That number doesn’t put him at the top of the all-time list. A couple of guys by the name of Sandy Koufax (0.95) and Christy Mathewson (1.06) lead the way there. Lee is right on their heels, though, and is doing so in an era that unquestionably favors hitters.
Lee has done so with unbelievable control. A fourth-inning walk to Mark Teixeira was the first issued by Lee in 19 2/3 innings this postseason. So yeah, he’s human, but just barely.
If Lee isn’t hands-down the best postseason hurler ever, he’s pretty close. John Smoltz, who was in the booth covering the game for TBS on Monday night must be in the discussion. As must pitchers like Schilling and Koufax.
Lee has only been doing it for two years, but he’s made those two years count. Not only that, he’s shown absolutely nothing, in any of his postseason starts that makes anyone think he won’t continue his torrid playoff pace.
The best playoff pitcher in the history of baseball is Cliff Lee and the scary thing is, he’s not even close to being done.
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