A Pitch F/X Look at Cliff Lee

Lee has a tremendous variety of movement in his pitches. He has three pitches that tail away from righties (fourseam, twoseam, changeup) and a nasty curveball with a ton of movement. For most pitchers this would be plenty; but Cliff Lee is not like most pitchers. He also packs a cutter with as much horizontal movement as some sliders.

We can see this with the following graph, which is from the catcher’s perspective (same with all following graphs):


CU=curveball, FC=cutter, FF=fourseam, FT=twoseam, CH=changeup. The black box represents the strikezone and has the average pitch locations for each pitch.

Looking at a pitcher’s entire repertoire like this is useful, but it can be more interesting to look at pitches individually when it comes to pitchers like Lee.



Against righties his location is pretty varied with the fourseam. He mainly locates the pitch middle-away, but often goes up and in too. Against lefties, he consistently pounds the outer half.

Pitch Type Count Selection% Swing% Swing-Miss% HR% GB% LD% FB%
FF 352 13.8 50.9 12.3 0.9 28.9 25.0 46.1
vs LHB
FF 305 36.4 47.2 13.2 0.7 45.6 12.3 42.1

FTdensRHw_strikezone FTdensLHw_strikezone

Against righties he primarily throws the twoseam pitch up and away, which explains why he has a high flyball rate on a pitch typically associated with groundballs. Against lefties the pitch is pretty much thrown low and over the middle of the plate.

Pitch Type Count Selection% Swing% Swing-Miss% HR% GB% LD% FB%
FT 1174 46.2 48.2 14.5 0.5 31.0 21.0 48.1
FT 241 28.8 46.1 11.7 0.0 59.6 27.7 12.8



Against righties the pitch is a real weapon; the cutter results in many whiffs and a solid amount of groundballs. Against lefties the pitch isn’t as remarkable, but still solid. His location against lefties with the cutter is very similar to his location with his fourseamer against lefties.

Pitch Type Count Selection% Swing% Swing-Miss% HR% GB% LD% FB%
FC 510 20.1 54.9 20.4 0.6 47.0 23.0 30.0
FC 185 22.1 49.7 17.4 1.1 41.9 18.6 39.5



His location against righties and lefties is pretty much the same, though he does backdoor the pitch occasionally to righties. He pretty much only throws his curve late in counts for strikeouts.

Pitch Type Count Selection% Swing% Swing-Miss% HR% GB% LD% FB%
CU 170 6.7 44.1 37.3 0.0 76.0 12.0 12.0
CU 49 5.8 36.7 38.9 0.0 20.0 20.0 60.0


Pitch Type Count Selection% Swing% Swing-Miss% HR% GB% LD% FB%
CH 293 11.5 58.7 29.7 0.3 42.5 17.5 40.0

Only one graph here because he only threw 20 changeups to lefties the entire year, so I’m just going to ignore those. According to Fangraphs pitch run values, his changeup was his most effective pitch this year. And you can see why; he was great and locating the pitch down and away.

*all data and tables are from Joe Lefkowitz’ site.

*This article was originally posted on www.pendingpinstripes.net

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