Monday, June 6, 2011
Lefties Lee, Lilly face off in Philly
(The Philadelphia Phillies host the Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday at 7 ET on ESPN)
Combined they are one game under .500 (8-9), but left-handed starters Ted Lilly and Cliff Lee are two of the most efficient pitchers in the National League.
Lee already has walked one more batter this season (19) than he did in 212⅓ innings last season. More interesting is the fact that 18 of the 19 walks this season have come against right-handed hitters (in 256 plate appearances). Last season, Lee walked just 14 right-handed hitters in 645 plate appearances.
Despite his increased number of walks, Lee ranks first this season in strike percentage (69.6), and is on pace to have the highest strikeout rate of his career. He’s currently averaging a league-best 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
A lot of Lee’s strikes come without the batter even swinging. Almost 40 percent of all his pitches taken are called strikes, the third-highest called strike percentage among starters. (The league average is 32.8 percent.)
One area of concern is how much success hitters are having against Lee with runners are scoring position. Last year, they hit .270 against him, slightly above the league average of .256. This year, opponents with runners in scoring position are hitting .348 against Lee. That ranks him 62nd out of 67 National League starters.
Opposing Lee will be Lilly, whose strike percentage (68.9) and walk rate (1.5 per nine inning) both rank third in the National League. And although his average fastball isn’t very fast (86.6 mph), his fastball strike percentage of 73.5 is first among NL starters. Forty-five percent of all fastballs taken by hitters have been called strikes. That’s also the highest percentage among National League starting pitchers.
Since coming over to the National League in 2007, Lilly has the fourth-best strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.43:1), tied for fourth with 90 quality starts, and tied for fifth in the league with 58 wins.
Lilly -- who has lost his last four decisions to the Phillies -- has walked just one batter in his last three starts, and has not walked more than two batters in 24 straight starts, the longest active streak in the majors.
Watch for the Phillies to try and jump on Lilly early in at-bats, as well as how their No. 7 and 8 hitters fare. Opponents are hitting .500 (14-28) this season against Lilly in at-bats ending on the first pitch — that’s tied for highest batting average allowed on the first pitch among NL starters. Also, the No. 7 and No. 8 hitters are 20-for-54 (.370) against Lilly.
Ryan Howard has two career home runs off Lilly. Only two left-handed hitters have more HR against Lilly: Barry Bonds and Carlos Gonzalez (three each).