Friday, May 13, 2011

Unlucky Lee

Over his last 19 regular season starts, Cliff Lee is 5-8 with a 4.30 ERA.

That is the "bad" news. The good news is Lee has been a victim of nothing more than bad luck, I think. I examined his stats, particularly to see if he "throws too many strikes," as some talking heads have suggested, and found little evidence.

First, the bad luck: balls are dropping for hits this year more than usual, at around a .350 clip. His lifetime average is .297.

As for his pitching, he's got a ridiculous 11 K/9 rate, which is by far the best of his career. Yet he is in the strike zone only a little more than previous years; 57.2% compared to 56.6% in 2010 and 56.9% in 2009. (I guess it can be noted his rate is almost 10% higher than the MLB average.) Hitters are making contact at 80.8%, which is below Lee's career average of 83.4% (and makes sense giving his K rate).

It appears Lee is relying less on his fastball and more on cutters and changeups this year. Some of this might be attributed to the way pitches are classified and logged, but still it seems logical given the increase in Ks.

Bottom line, though, is he's not throwing more pitches in the strike zone and batters are making less contact. I would think these are good things. Less contact and more hits is just bad luck.

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