Cliff Lee Finds the NL to His Liking

Cliff Lee has taken to the NL well. He is 4-0 in his first four starts:

+-------+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|       | IP |  H |  R | HR | BB |  K |
+-------+----+----+----+----+----+----+
| @ SFN |  9 |  4 |  1 |  0 |  2 |  6 |
|   COL |  7 |  6 |  1 |  0 |  1 |  9 |
| @ CHN |  8 |  6 |  1 |  0 |  3 |  8 |
|   ARI |  9 |  2 |  1 |  0 |  0 | 11 |
+-------+----+----+----+----+----+----+

Two complete games, a 34 to 6 K:BB ratio and no HRs. Cliff Lee has provided more than the Phillies could have hoped, and helped to keep them 5.5 games up in the NL East division.

Lee throws a fastball, cutter, curve, slider and changeup. Over those four games he threw his fastball 2/3 of time to lefties, but only half of the time to righties. He made up for it, for the most part, with more changeups and cutters to righties. Like many pitchers he goes up-and-in with the cutter and down-and-away with the change to opposite handed-batters. Over the past four games he executed that plan to a T, keeping both pitches out of the middle of the plate but still in the zone. Here are the location of the pitches with swinging strikes indicated.
pitch_loc
Anytime a pitcher can get some many pitches along the edges of the zone, and induce swings that far out of the zone he is going to be successful.

Of course we do not expect Lee to preform as he has these past four games going forward. Our estimate of his true talent is only marginally changed after a four game span. Still he is a very good pitcher, and a great addition to the Phillies’s playoff push and potential playoff rotation.

We hoped you liked reading Cliff Lee Finds the NL to His Liking by Dave Allen!

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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.

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Joe R
Guest
Joe R

Obviously Lee is really good so this may be a bit off base but…

AL-NL talent gap again?

don
Guest
don

His K/BB rate for all of last year was 5.0. Since the trade it’s 5.67 including facing pitchers.

His BABIP is low and the 0% HR/FB rate is going to make the FIP look really good.

The talent gap is there but luck is making up some of the difference too.

Joe R
Guest
Joe R

Very true. I do think he’ll continue to enjoy NL hitting in the long run, though.