Well – the Phillies have made their move, and it wasn’t for Roy Halladay, as many had hoped, but it’s hard to be upset when you get the reigning Cy Young Award winner (and RH bench bat) without giving up your 3-4 top prospects.
So now that Lee is here, what can we expect from him? Let’s start with a couple basic numbers.
3.14 : Lee’s 2009 ERA, 7th in the AL
2.82 : Lee’s ERA if you exclude his 1st start of the season (5 IP, 7 ER)
2.48: Lee’s ERA in 4 starts against the NL this season
1.24: Lee’s ERA in 4 starts against the Red Sox, Yankees and Cardinals this season
1.30: Lee’s WHIP, 19th in the AL
1.03: Lee’s WHIP in his 4 starts vs. NL
152 : Lee’s IP this season, 1st in the majors
18: The number of starts in which Lee has given up 3 runs or fewer (out of 22)
12: The number of starts in which Lee has give up 2 runs or fewer
14: The number of starts in which Lee has gone 7+ innings
2: The number of starts in which Lee has given up 7 runs
.303: Right handed hitters batting average against him.
10: Home runs allowed, tied for 94th most in the majors, with Roy Halladay
So what do these fairly straight forward numbers tell us?
- No matter how you slice it, we just got a top-15 starter in all of baseball for the next 2 years
- You can pretty much count on Lee to go 7 innings, giving up 2-3 runs, almost every start. He did at least that in 14 of his 22 starts this year. He’s consistently very good.
- He leads the world in IP, and will help keep our middle inning guys fresh.
- He gives up more hits than I would like (more than 1 per inning), resulting in a so-so WHIP. This has only really hurt him in 2 of his starts though.
- Right handers have hit him well this year, but the 2 years prior, they hit him worse than lefties. Not sure if this is just luck, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
- He dominated the NL and the 2 teams most likely to meet us in the World Series this year
Alright, Cliff Lee is good. We knew this. Let’s look at more of a scouting report and see what kind of pitches he throws and how effective he is with those pitches. For this, I’m going to use stats I get from FanGraphs.com. They track each pitch a pitcher throws and how effective that pitch is (the value column, higher is better, duh). For comparison’s sake, I’ve put the Phillies starters we’ve watched all year, and Halladay, on the list.
Here are my thoughts/observations on this portion
- First, it’s important to note that the value is a “rate” stat, which means that the less of that type of pitch someone throws, the more one HR or one K will alter the numbers. That is why the fastball numbers are all lower.
- He averages more IP/S than anyone on our team
- Lee is now our hardest throwing starter, with his fastball on average 1 mph faster than Hamels
- His best pitch appears to be his cutter and it seems as though he gets by just fine on his fastball and cutter. This is encouraging to me that his secondary stuff doesn’t have to be perfect for him to perform well.
- Like Blanton and Moyer, he throws 4 pitches: Fastball, Change-Up, Curve Ball and Cutter
- Unlike Blanton and Moyer, none of his 4 pitches are hurting him, even Halladay can’t say that
- He doesn’t have the mph difference from fastball to change-up that Hamels does, but he doesn’t use the pitch as much (I don’t think anyone does)
No, he’s not Roy Halladay – but he’s exactly what we needed, a top of the rotation starter, and we can now see what kind of players Kyle Drabek, Dominic Brown, Michael Taylor and JA Happ can be with us, not another club.
One last note, from Baseball Prospectus on how Lee fits into The Bank…
Although most of the talk has been about how perfect a fit the ground-balling Roy Halladay is for the Phillies, Cliff Lee also should be a big boost to them. Although not a dominant ground-ball pitcher, he’s better about it than he used to be, and he keeps the ball in the park and runners off the bases, both of which should help him in cozy Citizens Bank Park. Lee is coming from a park that slightly enhances the production of righties and is neutral for lefties, and is moving into the less difficult league. CBP does boost homers for right-handers, but overall, it plays neutral for them because it cuts down on everything else. Lee also shuts down left-handed batters, holding them to a line of .216/.232/.275 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) this year and a relatively harmless .272/.299/.362 in ’08. Although CBP makes things easier for lefties, Lee’s performance against them and his own handedness should negate that.
If that’s not enough for you, read Jayson Stark’s article on the acquisition of Lee. He usually can say it better than I can.