Cliff Lee will be taking the mound for the Rangers in Game 5 of their World Series showdown against the Giants. (The full World Series schedule can be seen here.) To help get you ready, we offer the following scouting report.
28.2 innings, 9 runs, 2 walks, 41 strikeouts
Last Start Summary
Lee started Game 1 of the World Series, and after opening the playoffs with three consecutive gems, he got lit up by a Giants order that didn't seem to pose much of a threat. They pushed two across in the third inning, and then really stormed out in the fifth, knocking Lee to the dugout before the end of the inning. Though his seven strikeouts and one walk look good, his location was off and he threw far too many pitches around the center of the plate, and it's for that reason the Giants were able to get him for five doubles. Though Lee's a terrific starting pitcher, his margin of error isn't enormous, and Game 1 showed what happens when he can't put his pitches in a teacup.
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.