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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

Carsten Groundball Sabathia

Earlier in the year I observed that CC was getting significantly more groundballs than earlier in his career. At this time we can see that he has maintained this new approach throughout the year (via fangraphs):

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Sabathia’s Strong June

CC is having his best month so far this year. In June he has a 2.48 ERA, 3.13 FIP, and a 3.46 xFIP, all excellent numbers. His improved numbers have come mainly by way of improved strikeout numbers. His K/9 this month is 8.69, over 1.4 more strikeouts per nine than any other month, a huge jump. He is punching out more batters this month because of nastier secondary pitches:

March-May (SL = slider, CH = changeup, CU = curveball):

Type Count Selection Strike Swing Whiff Foul In Play
FF 504 48.6% 63.3% 38.1% 4.6% 16.7% 16.9%
CH 188 18.1% 64.9% 54.8% 16.0% 18.1% 20.7%
SI 175 16.9% 69.7% 54.3% 8.0% 13.1% 33.1%
SL 141 13.6% 56.7% 41.1% 15.6% 12.8% 12.8%
CU 27 2.6% 66.7% 33.3% 7.4% 14.8% 11.1%
FA 3 0.3% 33.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%


Type Count Selection Strike Swing Whiff Foul In Play
FF 252 60.1% 63.1% 40.9% 4.4% 16.7% 19.8%
CH 54 12.9% 68.5% 57.4% 25.9% 13.0% 18.5%
SI 46 11.0% 52.2% 47.8% 8.7% 17.4% 21.7%
SL 34 8.1% 73.5% 50.0% 32.4% 5.9% 11.8%
CU 33 7.9% 63.6% 51.5% 24.2% 15.2% 12.1%

As you can see, his secondary pitches are being swung through quite often now. What’s also really important here is that in June, he has thrown his slider for a strike way more often than earlier in the year, suggesting improved command. When looking at the movement of his pitches, one can see that his breaking ball(s?) especially have sharpened up:


Type Count Selection Velocity (mph) Vertical (in) Horizontal (in)
SL 141 13.6% 80.4 -0.63 -5.75
CU 27 2.6% 78.5 -3.85 -2.03


Type Count Selection Velocity (mph) Vertical (in) Horizontal (in)
SL 34 8.1% 80.8 -1.27 -2.96
CU 33 7.9% 80.9 -3.10 -0.88

In June he has lost a considerable amount of horizontal movement, but gained vertical movement (assuming that his curveball and slider are basically the same pitch). This indicates that his slider/curve was a little flat earlier in the year, and he has since added more tilt to the pitch.

His release points also look a little tighter:

March-May                                                                                               June


*obviously the march-may chart is going to be more crowded (than the June chart) because of more pitches thrown during that time-period. Additionally, the horizontal changes in release point  may have more to do with changes in where Sabathia stands on the rubber than actual release point differences. I also apologize for the changing color of the pitches from chart to chart.

It certainly looks like Sabathia has found his secondary pitches, particularly his slider/curve. He’s throwing his slider/curve with better tilt and much better command. This improvement can also be seen by looking at linear weight values, found on Fangraphs:

March/April 2.71
May 1.17
June 3.46

As a result of his improved secondary pitches, batters are chasing balls and swinging through Sabathia’s pitches more often:

0-swing SwStr%
March/April 29% 10.5%
May 29.7% 6.8%
June 34.2% 11.2%

It is quite clear that his secondary pitches are better this month than previously in the year (march-april), yet for some reason Sabathia is actually throwing fastballs more often.

fastball + sinker %
March-May 65.8%
June 71.1%

*this article originally appeared on