24 innings, 2 runs, 1 walks, 34 strikeouts
Last Start Summary
Lee started Game 3 of the ALCS against the Yankees and turned in one of the most spectacular starts of his career. He retired the first 11 batters he saw before allowing a walk to Nick Swisher, which drew a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd. He didn't allow his first hit until the bottom of the fifth, and only surrendered two over eight shutout innings. For good measure, he struck out 13, including Marcus Thames three times and Derek Jeter twice. The 122-pitch effort might have pushed him to his limit, but if it did, it didn't show.
Despite his numbers, Cliff Lee isn't an overpowering guy. His fastball, though good, only sits around 90-92mph, with average movement. The key - for this pitch, and for all of his pitches - is his ability to spot the ball pretty much wherever he wants. He throws his fastball more than three-fifths of the time. His primary backup pitch is his cutter, in the 85-88mph range. His cutter breaks in on righties, with a good bit of sink. Lee's primary non-fastball pitch is an 84-86mph change, which has a lot of run on it in towards lefties. Finally, he throws a big, looping curve in the mid-70s with a lot of downward break. He's been known to throw a slider, but it's infrequent.
Lee sees a ton of righties, but he actually struck out a greater percentage of righties than lefties this past season. Righties will see all of his pitches. His first pitch is generally a fastball or a cutter somewhere over the outer half. In the unusual event that he falls behind, he'll often come back with a fastball more towards the center of the zone. When he gets ahead, he scatters. He'll throw a ton of inside cutters, but he'll also blend in some low, outside changeups and fastballs all around. Two-strike counts generally mean a lot of cutters and curves. It's worth noting that righties hit more fly balls against Lee than lefties, as he isn't afraid to work higher in the zone with his fastball.
Left-handed hitters almost exclusively see fastballs and cutters from Lee, as those combine for about 87% of his pitches. As he does against righties, Lee likes to start a lefty off with a fastball or cutter somewhere over the outer half. He'll try the same thing when he's behind, and it isn't too different when he's ahead 0-1, either, although he'll take some more liberties and pitch a bit more inside on occasion. Curveballs will get sprinkled in in two-strike counts, oftentimes for called strikes. He doesn't really throw a whiff pitch, preferring instead to throw strikes and keep the hitter on the defensive. It works.