Cliff Lee Has Actually Fared Well After High Pitch Count Outings

Cliff Lee Has Actually Fared Well After High Pitch Count Outings
May 1, 2013, 4:44 pm
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Guest post by Matt Hammond

Cliff Lee will face a former
team that traded him away for the first time tonight on their home turf when he
takes on the Indians in Cleveland, the team and city he won a Cy Young with
earlier in his career. He's got the attitude you'd expect:

“It’s another outing,” Lee said in the
Phillies’ dugout Tuesday afternoon
. “I guess the only thing that
makes it different is that I played here and they traded me away.”

It’s
totally possible that Lee eats shards of metal for breakfast. Don’t know.

But
some of his machine-like tendencies are clearer to see.

For
the Phillies, who have to be wondering how he’ll do after getting 120 hours to
recover from tossing 122 pitches last Thursday in the finale vs. the Pittsburgh
Pirates, one of them bodes well. 

Ten
times in Lee’s career has he taken on such a 122-pitch load. (All of them,
incidentally, were as a Phillie under manager Charlie Manuel.) His ERA in those
starts is 1.61.

His ERA in the following starts
is 1.59.

For
those games after: Lee’s gone 7-0. Three complete games, two of them complete
game shutouts. One was another 122-pitch start. Only once lasted fewer than six
innings (four, because he had to be yanked after a rain delay). Only two others
went fewer than eight innings. Never once did he surrender more than four runs.
Seven of nine times he held opponents to two runs or fewer.

Thinking
Lee’s good for tonight.

On
the year: Lee’s been basically everything that he was last year, only with more
wins and fewer home runs. The difference has been with his cutter. Of his 26
home runs last year, nine were off cutters, the most of any pitch. This year,
he’s yet to allow one on it. Most everything about the pitch is the same: same
velocity, same movement. Only, a better opp BA (.226 to .293) and no homers.

Overall,
Lee’s somehow kept batters in the yard this year better despite putting the
ball in the air markedly more. His GB% has dipped considerably (from 45.0% to
37.0%) with his FB% (36.9% to 41.7%) making up the difference. Yet, Lee’s HR/FB
is down (from 11.8% to 6.7%). In all, only three home runs sprinkled
across five starts.

We’ll
see if that holds up against the seven-bombs-in-a-game Indians.

However
he does, Lee’s going to be aggressive doing it. He’s tied for fourth in
baseball with a 51.0% swing rate this year, and not because he’s lucked out
thanks to guys chasing (30.7 O-Swing%). Lee’s even allowed contact, yet
maintained success with a relatively sustainable .276 BABIP.

He’s
also got the seventh-most vertical movement on his curveball (-10.1), which is
cool and stuff.

Four
of five of Lee’s starts so far have been for quality. The exception? His
five-runs-in-five-innings outing against the Cardinals, when he (gasp!) walked
three whole batters in a 5-0 loss on Apr. 20. It was rare, and Lee kept it that
way, following up with vintage stuff against the Pirates, albeit in a loss.

One
other cool game note: Lee’s never faced Cleveland, where he won his AL Cy Young
in 2008. It’s the last MLB franchise he’s yet to oppose. He has seen some
current players, though. Drew Stubbs is 5 for 11 against him with five
strikeouts. Nick Swisher (8 for 33, 2 HR, 3 RBI) and Mike Aviles (5 for 22, HR,
2 RBI), Jason Giambi (3 for 10, HR, 2B) have done OK with varying chances.

*

7:05
start. Delmon Young gets the DH role again. The Phils look for the split before
returning home to face the Fish on Thursday in Philadelphia.

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