I think we all agree that the Phillies probably made a mistake by shipping Lee off to Seattle for some questionable prospects rather than having a monstrous top three of Halladay/Lee/Cole Hamels, but Blake’s statement is still probably a little off the mark.
Yes, Cliff Lee is awesome. Let’s just not forget that while he’s only two full seasons off of being dumped to the minors with a 6.29 ERA, Halladay has been nearly unhittable for a decade and might end up in the Hall of Fame – despite constantly playing for mediocre Toronto teams in the brutal AL East.
Much of Lee’s legend comes from the last two seasons – his ridiculous 22-3 record for Cleveland in 2008, and his 4 wins for the Phillies in the playoffs in 2009. Yet Halladay’s last two seasons tops Lee’s by almost any measure.
37 wins, 485 IP, 2.78 ERA, 154 ERA+, 1.089 WHIP
36 wins, 455 IP, 2.89 ERA, 147 ERA+, 1.178 WHIP
Both are outstanding pitchers, to be sure. But head-to-head, Halladay’s numbers are slightly better, even though he was facing the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox, while Lee was mostly facing the Royals, Twins, and White Sox. Imagine what Halladay’s going to do this year facing the Nationals, Mets, and Marlins instead? There’s no question here – Halladay’s superior.
So how could Blake possibly feel that way? I’m sure there’s a little bit of spring training bravado there, a need to make it sound like the Phillies haven’t improved even further after knocking the Dodgers out twice in a row.
More than that, though, I think it’s because of Blake’s personal history. He’s never faced Lee in the regular season, though he did go 0-3 with a strikeout in the 11-0 disaster of NLCS Game 3. Yet against Halladay, Blake has oddly had decent success, putting up a line of .357/.471/.643 with a homer in 14 at-bats. So while it’s hard to say that the Phillies haven’t gotten at least a little better by swapping out Lee for Halladay (and Halladay’s extremely team-friendly extension), you can at least see why Blake might be a little happy about it. He’d better be, because if the Dodgers are finally going to get over the hump, they’re going to need Blake to show a little more than last year’s total October disappearance.
By the way, did you know that Halladay’s full name is “Harry Leroy Halladay”? “Roy Halladay” sounds like someone who’s kind of a bad-ass. But how would you feel facing “Harry Halliday” or “Leroy Halliday”?