Monday, February 8, 2016

A statistical breakdown of Cliff Lee's performance

Change speeds, change locations, throw strikes. It sounds simple, and Cliff Lee made it look that way last night. Already, some in the media are calling it one of the best starting pitching performances in World Series history: Nine innings, six hits, no walks, 10 strikeouts, one unearned run. He struck out previously untouchable Alex Rodriguez three times. He held both A-Rod and Mark Teixeira without a hit.

A statistical breakdown of Cliff Lee's performance

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Cliff Lee fanned 10 batters and led the Phillies to a victory over the Yankees in Game 1 of the World Series. (Yong Kim / Staff photographer)
Cliff Lee fanned 10 batters and led the Phillies to a victory over the Yankees in Game 1 of the World Series. (Yong Kim / Staff photographer)

Change speeds, change locations, throw strikes. It sounds simple, and Cliff Lee made it look that way last night. Already, some in the media are calling it one of the best starting pitching performances in World Series history: Nine innings, six hits, no walks, 10 strikeouts, one unearned run. He struck out previously untouchable Alex Rodriguez three times. He held both A-Rod and Mark Teixeira without a hit.

What makes Lee so effective? 

1) A cutter/slider he commands like his fastball. In many ways, Lee's fastball/slider combo is like Cole Hamels' fastball/change-up. The slider isn't a secondary pitch. It is more a matter of No. 1 and No. 1A. Last night, he threw 34 of them, using it to record 10 outs, five of them strikeouts. He threw 23 out of 34 of them for strikes. He allowed just one hit. He threw it in every imaginable count: 10 times on the first pitch (compared with 19 fastballs), six times while ahead 0-1 (compared with six fastballs), and nine times when trailing in the count 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 or 3-1 (compared with 10 fastballs).

2) His other off-speed pitches. Like Cole Hamels' change-up, Lee's cutter seems to be a 1A pitch. Unlike Hamels, he has similar confidence in his third and fourth pitches. Pitching coach Rich Dubee raved about Lee's change-up last night. Of the 14 he threw, 11 went for strikes and six resulted in outs, two of them strikeouts. Combined with his curve ball (nine strikes, four outs, two strikeouts, 14 pitches), Lee had full command of four pitches, each of them arriving to the plate with drastically different movement.

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3) Fastball counts aren't fastball counts: Lee trailed 2-0, 3-0 or 3-1 in 10 different counts. He threw fastballs in just four of them.

4) Command: It is no good having four pitches if you don't have control of them. Lee threw 80 of his 122 pitches for strikes, consistently giving himself the upper hand against the Yankees' hitters. Just three of the 122 pitches he threw came in a three-ball count. Conversely, 32 of them came in two-strike counts.

5) Location: While opposing starter C.C. Sabathia spent most of the night attacking the outer half of the plate, struggling with his command when attempting to go inside, Lee owned both sides of the plate.

"He threw everything for stirkes," center fielder Shane Victorino said. "That was what was so impressive about him tonight, is that he had every single pitch working. He would come in and then go away, come in, come in, and then go away. Change-up, curveball, he did everything right tonight, and that's what he's been doing throughout the postseason, and what he did when he came here."

When hitters have no idea what pitch is coming, or where it is coming, and when a pitcher is hitting the spots he wants, it's pretty tough to put the ball in play. The Yankees found that out first hand last night.

^

Cliff Lee's Pitch Breakdown (Unofficial)

Fastball

  1. Pitches/strikes: 60/37
  2. Called strikes: 12
  3. Swing-and-miss: 3
  4. Fouls: 11
  5. Outs: 6
  6. Strikeouts: 1
  7. Hits: 4

Slider/Cutter

  1. Pitches: 34/23
  2. Called strikes: 5
  3. Swing-and-miss: 9
  4. Fouls: 3
  5. Outs: 10
  6. Strikeouts: 5
  7. Hits: 1

Change-up

  1. Pitches: 14/11
  2. Called stirkes: 2
  3. Swing-and-miss: 2
  4. Fouls: 1
  5. Outs: 6
  6. Strikeouts: 1
  7. Hits: 0

Curveball

  1. Pitches: 14/9
  2. Called strikes: 0
  3. Swing-and-miss: 3
  4. Fouls: 3
  5. Outs: 5
  6. Strikeouts: 2
  7. Hits: 1

^

We're still seven-and-a-half hours away from Game 2. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Pedro Martinez does in his return to Yankee Stadium. Pretty amazing that the Phillies were in first place at the All-Star Break -- and that neither their Game 1 or Game 2 starter was on the roster at the time. . .

Staff Writer
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