November 27, 2014

What do the Phillies have in Cliff Lee?

cliff-lee

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.

cliff lee1

cliff lee2

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.

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Comments

  1. jjg says:

    Obviously strong favor from you (and the pundits), Pete.  I say the proof of the pudding is in the tasting.  Change of scenery (and team chemistry) can do funny things to human beings.  Odds are, you’re take is right though and Phils will breeze to NL East pennant.  Still, the closer situation nags for long haul. 

  2. jkay says:

    Pete: some homework you did there. who would have known they keep stats on pitch velocity, % etc.
    on Lidge: i guess he spoiled us last year with the perfect season. why is everyone so concerned? the great Jonathan Papelbon is going through the same struggles right now. my prediction-Lidge will eventually be serviceable enough for us to win. just enough

  3. Trillo Fan says:

    I  say the proof of the pudding is in the tasting.  Change of scenery (and team chemistry) can do funny things to human beings. jjg, what you say is a truism that can be applied to a lot of people the Phillies might have traded for, including Halladay.  The fact is, neither Halladay nor Lee have pitched a single postseason inning (nor pitched in a big market), so that consideration favors neither of them.  Given that Lee is two years younger, cost half as much (in terms of players), cost millions less (in terms of dollars), and most importantly 90% as good as Halladay (comparing just this season and last), this trade was the vastly superior one for the Phillies’ franchise.

    Pete, excellent breakdown of the numbers.  For the uninitiated, what is the range that the “value” stat can take?  What is considered a good (or great) value?  Looking way ahead, the one Lee stat that gives me pause is that Manny Ramirez owns him (6 for 14, 3 doubles, 2 HRs).  But let’s hope we get to the point where we’re worrying about that, because that would mean a trip to the NLCS.

    I’m also in agreement with whoever said that Moyer should be the one to leave the rotation in the playoffs.  The question is how they can do that in a face-saving manner.

    Final point:  I hear a lot of the pundits saying that this trade makes the Phillies a “dangerous” team.  What a lot of people are ignoring is that the Phillies were already a dangerous team before the trade, headed like a freight train toward the best record in baseball behind their 19-3 run.  They’ve gotten to where they are (18 over, their final mark last year) with 3 major pieces playing poorly (Hamels, Rollins, Lidge) and arguably only 1 player playing better-than-expected (Ibanez).  Given the likelihood that Hamels, Rollins and Lidge would improve their play and approach their career norms (Hamels and Rollins have already improved), I would argue that the Phillies even without a trade were headed to 95 wins.  Now the trade makes them the favorites for the World Series, though that expectation might be a double-edge sword (this team does better as underdogs).

  4. jurnee16 says:

    I think Stark was a little off on his article and he is usually right on with the Phillies.  He wrote it like an open letter to all Phillies fans thinking we were pissed about not getting Halladay and were disappointed with the acquisition of Lee and he was trying to convince the fans it was a good move.  However the overwhelming opinion amongst the fans seems to be that while most of us would have preferred Halladay we are very excited about Lee because he still gives the rotation a huge boost and we got to hold on to our best prospects.

  5. bball says:

    “Early indications were that they were leaning toward bumping J.A. Happ and Rodrigo Lopez to the bullpen to make room for Lee and Pedro.” 
    - From the Jayson Stark article you refference

    What???? 

    How could anyone think of taking him out of the rotation with the way he’s been pitching.  I hope this is just a case of the national media being out of touch with the team, although Stark knows his Phillies.  I hope this isn’t true.

  6. jjg says:

    Trillo fan,  Good point about the favored underdog position; loading up could bite ‘em in the rear.

    On Lee trade being “vastly superior” to one involving Halliday - that assertion lends to vast controversy, even among experts.

    Additions to your “better-than-expected” performer list of one (Ibanez):  Victorino, Werth, Feliz, Blanton, Happ, Lopez, Condrey.       

  7. Pete says:

    trillo -

    it really varies – I have only started looking at them this year, so I don’t have a long-term knowledge of it.

    anything over 2 is really good. 0.00 is around average, but not exactly depending on pitch.

    you can check it out here….

    http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=y&type=7&season=2009&month=0

  8. Pete says:

    jurnee-

    I thought that was strange too. Many people wanted Halladay (myself included) but everyone seems happy with this trade.

    one possibility – I saw on the Philly.com forum that Mike Missinelli (sp?) from ESPN 950 was upset they didn’t get Halladay and criticizing the move on the radio. I would call that reason 6,427 (ish) why I don’t EVER listen to sports talk radio around here except the occasional Jody Mac (who is more about discussion than yelling and hype).

  9. tk76 says:

    Sports radio wants controversy and usually goes out of its way to create it- even to the detriment of the team.  That is part of why big media markets are tough.  They have certain egocentric radio jackeys who are basically ebing paid to whip people into a frenzy.

  10. Stu says:

    Cliff Lee announced this morning that following the trade, he will now change his first name from “Cliff” to “Phil”.

  11. Chris McC says:

    When I heard about this yesterday I felt like somebody knocked my ice cream off the cone.  But as I think about it I am thrilled by this move.  We get a reigning Cy Young winner and we keep Happ and Drabek.  Now we’ve got Lee, Hamels, Blanton, Moyer and Happ this year and next year: Lee, Hamels, Blanton, Happ, Moyer, Myers and possibly Drabek.  Too many starters is a good problem to have.  We could probably keep Drabek in AAA next year if he needs some more work.

    My favorite Lee stat you posted:
    1.24: Lee’s ERA in 4 starts against the Red Sox, Yankees and Cardinals this season

    Shows me that he steps it up in big games.  Anbody think the Phillies can’t win against any of those teams when they will more than likely need only 3 runs?  I think so.

    Looking forward to this.

    Great stats Pete.

  12. Richie says:

    Is anyone else starting to worry  a little when they describe Knapp as a better prospect than Drabek and Carrasco filling in right away in their rotation, Donald becoming another Rich Aurilia, and Marson a .300 average hitter with a few things to learn behind the plate.

    I absolutely love the deal and hope we end up with the better end of this, but Cliff Lee was in the minors in 2007 and Mark Shapiro is the GM that pulled the wool over Minaya’s eye’s in the 2002 Bartolo Colon trade for Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, and one Clifford P. Lee. I’m just saying…

  13. stu says:

    Richie, not sure what your point is.  The Indians weren’t giving away Lee for free, of course all of the prospects we gave up have potential.  Why are you worried about?  None of them were ”the big 4″, that is the gist of the happiness on the Philly end.

     The bigger picture here is that the best prospect on paper we gave up throws too hard for his own body, is 18 years old, and on the DL with “shoulder fatigue”.  I’d gladly let the other team take the risk and hopefully Knapp pans out for them, but he has a long way to go. 

    The rest of the guys are serviceable, but are considered less talented than the Happ, Drabek, Taylor, Brown group.

  14. stu says:

    Carrasco had plenty of opportunities “to fill right into our rotation” and was beaten out by the likes of Drew Carpenter and Rodrigo Lopez.  Yikes!

  15. jkay says:

    Richie: you’re thinking too much. Lee won a Cy last year and ius good this year, consistency NOW, thats all that matters, the past is irrelevant. as per Knapp, gotta give up something good. they’re called prospects for a reason, who knows how they will pan out. we got a sure thing in Lee IMO. besides i think the writers are just looking for a way to console Cleveland cos from the outset, it looks like we got the better end.

  16. tk76 says:

    In 2 years Lee might walk, and we’ll get 2 #1′s as compensation to replace the lost prospects.  The farm system is still stocked, even after this trade.  And the team is in good financial shape.  The gate revenue is tremendous, and we have some bargain players like Happ, Werth and eventually Brown and Taylor who allow spending to go on other needs.  Absolutely no reason to fret.

    That does not mean the team will win another WS, but they have as good of a shot as anyone both today and in the foreseeable future.  Things haven’t looked this good since the late 70′s.  What is it about economic downturns that coincide with Phillies success?

  17. Drew says:

    I love the trade but a big WOW to Halladay’s effectiveness with his Cutter, Changeup, and Curve. Those are sick numbers.

    I don’t understand why Pedro isn’t the leading candidate for the pen.  Pedro and Lopez should go into the bullpen.  Pedro pitched well out of relief in the WBC.

  18. bski says:

    I really think Amaro did a fantastic job with this deal.  Obviously only time will tell, but, IMO, he achieved a nice balance (current vs. future needs, taking on salary but maintaining space/flexibility). 

    Most of what I’ve read says we got the better end of the deal.  The most pro-Phillies article I read is from Fangraphs.  Here is their conclusion: 

    “Sorry Cleveland – you got hosed here. This is just not a good deal for the Indians in any way, shape, or form. Ruben Amaro just cleaned Mark Shapiro’s clock on this trade.”

    I read this in Conlin’s column today:  “Ruben Amaro Jr. gets to drive the Clydesdales this October. And if he can land a back-of-the-rotation righthander for J.A. Happ – Arizona’s Jon Garland, perhaps – and toss a few B-list bodies Baltimore’s way for lefthanded closer George Sherrill, Ruben can have his pick from Hertz-Rent-a-Pooch for his Budwagon canine companion.”

    Is this just wishful thinking?  Has anyone heard anything about us looking to trade Happ for a right-hander like Garland because I haven’t.  It doesn’t sound like a very good idea to me either.

    Now I’m very curious to see what moves are made in setting our rotation and bullpen.  We’ve all been talking about a rotation of Lee, Hamels, Moyer, Happ, and Blanton, and about having 4 lefties.  What about Pedro?  Does he get a shot and, if so, who gets bumped?  Seems to me that Moyer is now the fly in the ointment because, other than the rotation, there is no where else to put him.  Gotta figure that means Happ is the one heading to the pen. 

    Looking a little further ahead, what about the playoff roster?  Does Moyer get left off of it?  I mean, we now have Lee, Hamels, and Blanton as starters, with Happ moving to the pen (most logically anyway, which is why putting him there sooner and giving him time to readjust  may make sense), so where does Moyer fit?

    Then there’s next year.  If Drabek is ready for our rotation I’d rather see him in it than dealing with another year of the declining Moyer just because we, mistakenly, gave him a 2-year contract.

    Don’t mean to get too far ahead.  It’s just that I’ve been thinking about it and, any way I look at it, Moyer is the odd man out.  At least I think he should be.

  19. Sean says:

    IMO, given the fact that the Phillies have played a lower amount of games then most of the league and will likely have some makeup games coming up, I would use a 6-man rotation once Pedro is ready.  Hamels, Lee, Blanton, Happ, Moyer, Pedro.  Given that Hamels is still adjusting to the big workload and Lee already leads the majors in innings, why not?

  20. bski says:

    How about a couple random baseball notes?

    1) The NY Times is reporting that David Ortiz is one of the 100 or so players that tested positive for PEDs in 2003.

    2)  I read this article by Tim Kurkjian a couple days ago and have been meaning to post it here.  It’s a good read about a suject we have discussed many times: pitch counts.

  21. Zack says:

    bski, I’m going to the game tonight.  I checked out the pitching matchups and saw that Rodrigo Lopez was going for the Phils.  If you have the time, could you tell me what I should expect from him tonight?  Is he an innings eater like Blanton, does he need to get out of the first like Cole, what?

    You ALMOST get a Lincecum-Hamels matchup – it’s off by a day.  Instead it’s Moyer-Lincecum on Saturday night.

    I hope Cliff Lee gets to pitch on Sunday.  Right now the probables are Hamels-Zito.  I’m constantly checking the ‘net to see when Lee’s first start will be, please please please let it be Sunday.

    I also hope we pummel the Giants this weekend.  They’re feeling good out here, being the Wild Card leader, having just swept the Pittsburgh Pirates, having traded for Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Garko, and with LA slipping in the standings they’re gaining in the NL West race.  Gotta bring these guys down to earth, send a message for when we meet them in the playoffs.  Man oh man I hope it’s Philly-San Fran in the first round, I’m definitely going to those games.  But that sounds a little scary with them throwing Timmy L and Cain against us; Halladay would’ve made me feel a lot better about a matchup with them.  But like I’ve said before, that ace-of-the-staff crap doesn’t scare these Phils.

  22. bski says:

    Zack,

    Lopez has been consistently decent for us.  He has made 4 starts for us (and posting a 3-0 record)  but only thrown 23 1/3 innings, meaning he’ll give you 5-6 innings each time out.  He does not strike out many, 15, but he also doesn’t walk many, 6.  His WHIP of 1.37 is mostly due to his  H/9 being 10, which also explains his 4.42 ERA.  He  is sort of like a right-handed Moyer (except that he uses his high-80s fastball more) in that he pitches to contact, uses the inside of the plate, and has a lot of balls put in play against him.  He’s not at all overpowering, nor is any of his stuff above average.  He just sticks to it and gives a workmanlike effort.

    With Lee coming on board and Pedro waiting in the wings, this will most likely be his last start, barring an injury to a  starter, so let’s hope he delivers another winning effort tonight.

    I’m sure glad we’re missing Cain in this series.  He could have put up that game he threw last night against us.  Don’t need that.

  23. Wow has Cliff Lee been great or what!

    4-0 and two complete games, and two 2 hitters.

  24. tk76 says:

    Pete, know of any better 4 game stretch by a phillies pitcher?

  25. tk76 says:

    Add his 3 starts prior to the trade and its:

    Last 7 starts: 7W/OL;  8.3 IP/G;  48K/6W/40H in 58 IP (and he got “knocked around” for 16 hits and 2R in the 1st 2 games, so has been stronger in his last 5.)

  26. Pete says:

    tk -

    I’m gonna move your comments over to the current series thread – more people will see it there and chime in

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