Stats & Info: Cliff Lee

Cliff Lee can do everything

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
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Cliff Lee's pitching and hitting combination was a unique one in this sport.

Lee is the first pitcher in major-league history to have a three-hit, four-RBI game and strike out more than eight hitters in a game.

The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Lee was only the second pitcher to have 14 strikeouts and four RBI in a game, joining Dwight Gooden of the 1990 New York Mets.

Lee was the first pitcher to have three hits and four RBI in a game, regardless of strikeout total, since Micah Owings of the 2007 Arizona Diamondbacks did so against the Atlanta Braves. He's the first with such a game for the Phillies since Phil Collins against the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1930.

Lee became the second NL pitcher to strike out at least 14 hitters in a game this season, joining Jose Fernandez. He's the first Phillies pitcher with a 14-strikeout, no-walk game since Curt Schilling in 1997.

With the 14 strikeouts, Lee again cleared 200 whiffs for the season, the third straight season he's done so. He joins Hall-of-Famers Jim Bunning and Steve Carlton as the only pitchers in Phillies history with at least three straight 200-strikeout seasons.

5 stats to know: Braves at Phillies

August, 4, 2013
8/04/13
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AP Photo/Matt Slocum
After a tough stretch of starts, Cliff Lee looks to turn things around against the Braves on Sunday.

The Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies finish off their three-game series at Citizens Bank Park tonight at 8 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN.

Here are five stats to know going into Sunday Night Baseball action.

1. The Braves are riding the league’s best active win streak right now at nine games. Saturday night’s comeback win against the Phillies was their league-leading 35th of the year. Atlanta has won 16 of the past 23 meetings with the Phillies and 10 of the past 14 at Citizens Bank Park.

The Braves enter Sunday’s action with a season-high 11.5-game lead in the NL East. It marks the first time since Sept. 21, 2003, that the Braves have had a lead of 11.5 games in their division. The 2003 Braves finished the year with a 10.0-game lead in the NL East.

2. At 10 games under .500, the Phillies are trying to avoid their first losing season since 2002. Philadelphia is averaging 3.8 runs per game this season. This season could be the first since 1991 that the Phillies fail to score at least four runs per game.


3. Rookie lefty Alex Wood makes his fourth career start for the Braves on Sunday, and for the second time in his career, it will be on regular rest. The hard-thrower has posted a well-above-average strikeout rate of 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings (average: 7.5) and walked 3.0 batters per nine innings (avg. 3.0). Wood has allowed one home run in 33 1/3 IP, due in part to a very good ground ball rate (55 percent).

Although Wood’s average fastball of 92.3 mph isn’t incredible, it ranks fourth among NL lefties with at least three starts this season, behind some pretty significant names.

4. Cliff Lee returns to the mound after missing a start with neck stiffness. He’ll look to shake off a tough stretch in his past four starts when he went 1-2 with a 5.47 ERA.

Lee has shown amazing command throughout his career, and this year has been no different. He leads the NL in strike rate (71 percent), percent of pitches in the zone (60 percent) and strikeouts looking this season (54 percent). Lee is 5-1 with a 1.38 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 0.5 BB/9 in his past seven starts against the Braves.

5. Jason Heyward moved into the leadoff spot for the Braves on July 27. Prior to that, he saw 57 percent fastballs. Since then, he’s seen 65 percent fastballs.

Through July 26, Atlanta’s leadoff hitters had an OBP of .296 and were scoring an average of 0.6 runs per game. Since Heyward took over at the top of the order, the Braves’ leadoff spot has a .425 OBP and is contributing 1.5 runs per game.

Phillies feel right at home in Cincinnati

April, 15, 2013
4/15/13
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Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsCliff Lee looks to open the season at 3-0 as the Phillies visit the Reds.
The Cincinnati Reds return home after dropping their last five games on the road. They’ll face the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday Night Baseball (7 ET, ESPN).

The Reds started the season 5-2, including winning four of six games during their season-opening homestand. Their current five-game losing streak is tied for their longest since they lost six straight in May 2011.

Cincinnati won the NL Central last season and was the preseason favorite to do so again this year. The franchise is looking to make consecutive postseason appearances for the first time since winning back-to-back World Series in 1975 and 1976.

Phillies Starter Cliff Lee
They’ll face Cliff Lee, who is off to a 2-0 start with a 1.08 ERA this season. That’s quite the contrast to last year, when Lee didn’t pick up his second win until his 18th game.

While Lee’s record dropped to 6-9 last season, his peripheral numbers were similar to the rest of his career. He struck out 24 percent of the batters faced, the second-highest rate of his career, while walking only 3 percent of opposing hitters, the second-lowest rate of his career.

His biggest problem last season was the gopher ball. He gave up 26 home runs in 2012, his most since allowing 29 in 2006.

Hitters have taken advantage of Lee’s reputation for pounding the strike zone. Of the 27 home runs he’s allowed since the start of last year, 13 have been in the first two pitches of the at-bat.

Home Away from Home
Since Great American Ball Park opened in 2003, the Phillies are 22-13 in Cincinnati. That’s tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best winning percentage among visitors to play at least seven games there.

Philadelphia has finished with a winning record away from home for nine straight seasons. The Phillies have won nearly 55 percent of their road games in that span, compared to the league average of 46 percent.

Rolling Out the Red Carpet
The Reds’ primary offseason addition, centerfielder Shin-Soo Choo, has quickly settled in at the top of the Cincinnati order. He has reached base in all 12 games this season, and his .483 on-base percentage is third in the National League.

Last season, Cincinnati leadoff hitters posted a .254 on-base percentage. That was the lowest single-season mark in the Wild Card Era, and the lowest since the Toronto Blue Jays in 1981.

Since the start of last year, Choo has posted a .400 on-base percentage from the leadoff spot, five points higher than Mike Trout for best in the majors.

Losing Greinke has Dodgers blue

April, 12, 2013
4/12/13
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San Diego Padres slugger Carlos Quentin rushed the mound and wrestled Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke to the ground after getting hit by a pitch Thursday night. A bench-clearing brawl ensued, but in the melee Greinke suffered a fractured collarbone.
Greinke Quentin
This wasn’t the first time Greinke and Quentin have had a run-in.

July 18, 2008: With two on in the bottom of the first, Greinke hit Quentin to load the bases, and the Chicago White Sox went on to score five runs that inning. Quentin then led off the second inning and homered to left field.

April 8, 2009: In their first meeting the next year, Quentin struck out in the bottom of the first, in an at-bat that included a high-and-tight pitch. Greinke then hit Quentin between the shoulders in the fourth inning. Quentin took a step toward the mound before plate umpire Bill Hohn jumped in front of him. Greinke said afterward, "The first at-bat kind of scared me because you never want to do that to anyone. It happens. You hit guys sometimes."

April 9, 2013: In the first game of this series, Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario hit Quentin with a high and tight fastball, right in the right wrist. Quentin had to leave that game and missed the next one recovering from the bruise.

Greinke is the fourth pitcher to hit Quentin three or more times, and in total 18 pitchers have hit Quentin at least twice in his career.

In fact, getting hit is nothing new for Quentin who led MLB in hit-by-pitch in both 2011 (23, in 118 games) and 2012 (17, in 86 games).

While losing Quentin’s pop at the plate is a big deal for the Padres, the loss of Greinke to the Dodgers’ rotation could have a bigger impact. Greinke signed the fourth-largest total value contract by a pitcher this offseason.

Plus he’s been durable and effective on the mound.

Greinke is one of six pitchers who threw 170+ innings and struck out 170+ batters each year from 2008 to 2012 (CC Sabathia, Tim Lincecum, Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, Matt Cain). His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which considers a pitcher's three true outcomes of HR, K and BB) is the third-best in MLB since 2009.

So who will replace Greinke? Here are a few options from the Dodgers 40-man roster.

LHP Ted Lilly: 53 starts for Dodgers since 2010. He threw 90 pitches in Triple-A rehab start on Thursday.

LHP Chris Capuano: 33 starts for Dodgers last season. He replaced Greinke on Thursday.

RHP Stephen Fife: five starts for the Dodgers last season. He started for Triple-A Albuquerque on Wednesday.

Kyle Lohse succeeds without overpowering

March, 19, 2013
3/19/13
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Sarah Glenn/Getty ImagesKyle Lohse has been one of baseball's best strike-throwers the last two seasons.
Kyle Lohse remains on the free agent market, with first-round compensation required if a team chooses to sign him.

What would the team that signs Lohse be getting?

Let’s run through a few of Lohse's areas of strength.

Lohse is not a power pitcher. His fastball averages 89 miles-per-hour and tops out at 92 on a good day. He gets his outs through getting contact and letting his defense turn outs behind him. His effectiveness over the last five seasons has coincided with a dip in two key stats: he’s cut his walks per nine innings from 2.8 (from 2001 to 2007) to 2.2, and his home runs per nine from 1.2 to 0.9.

In a 200-inning season, that equates to 13 fewer walks and seven fewer home runs allowed.

Lohse had his best season in terms of control in 2012. His 1.62 walks per nine innings ranked fifth-lowest among ERA qualifiers (six-hundredths of a point from Bronson Arroyo for second place).

Over the past two seasons, Lohse has excelled at throwing first-pitch strikes. His 68 percent first-pitch strike rate is tied with Cliff Lee for second-best among pitchers who have thrown at least 200 innings in that span.

He's also been terrific at getting called strikes. His called-strike rate of 39 percent ranks third, trailing only control artists Bartolo Colon and Lee.

In particular, Lohse excels at hitting the outside corner. Since 2011, his 38 percent called-strike rate on pitches to the outer-third of the plate (or off the outside corner) is the best in all of baseball.

What’s next for Lohse?
The five projection systems used by Fangraphs.com all have Lohse’s ERA increasing by at least half a run from 2012, from 3.39 by OLIVER to 4.28 from Steamer Projections. ESPN’s predictive system of choice, ZIPS, gives Lohse a 3.63 ERA.

Media reports have the Texas Rangers as the team with the most interest in Lohse. One thing to keep in mind that if Lohse goes to Texas, he would go from pitching in a park that is modestly pitcher-friendly (Busch Stadium ranked 18th in Park Factor for runs scored last season and 21st for home runs) to a park that is much more hitter-friendly. (Rangers Ballpark ranks fourth in Park Factor in runs scored and seventh in home runs.)

One other thing to keep in mind for Lohse. Over the past two seasons, Lohse has gone 30-11 with a 3.11 ERA in nearly 400 innings. In each of those seasons he has outpitched his peripheral numbers. In 2011, he had a 3.39 ERA, but his strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed produced a Fielding Independent Pitching (an estimator of what his ERA was likely to be) of 3.67. Last season, he had a 2.86 ERA and a FIP of 3.51.

The difference between Lohse’s ERA and FIP was .-65 (meaning his FIP was 65 points above his ERA). That was the fifth-worst negative differential among those who qualified for the ERA title last season.

In 2011, 10 ERA-title qualifiers had an ERA-FIP differential of -.65 or worse. Of those 10, nine saw their ERA increase in 2012.
It was a busy day as the trade deadline brought a lot of change for a few teams looking to make a playoff push. Here is a look at the major-league impact of Tuesday’s trades. All stats are entering Tuesday.

RYAN DEMPSTER
The Texas Rangers acquire P Ryan Dempster from the Chicago Cubs for minor-league 3B Christian Villanueva and minor-league P Kyle Hendricks.

Dempster has limited experience against the AL West. He's faced the Oakland Athletics once, Seattle Mariners twice, but never taken the mound against the Los Angeles Angels.

While Dempster might not be the flashy add that Cliff Lee or Zack Greinke might have been, he immediately becomes the team's best starter by Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP.

One concern is that over the last two seasons, Dempster has been good in August (6-3, 3.34 ERA), but not so good in September and October (3-7, 4.79 ERA).

HUNTER PENCE
The San Francisco Giants acquire Hunter Pence from the Philadelphia Phillies for OF Nate Schierholtz, minor-league C Tommy Joseph and minor-league P Seth Rosin.

The Giants hope to give their outfield a power boost by getting Pence. San Fran outfielders have produced just 26 homers (T-26th in ML) while Pence has 17 himself this season.

He will also be a much-needed power-hitting right-handed bat since Pence is slugging .447 and with an isolated power of .176 while Giants righties are .386 and .119 respectively.

SHANE VICTORINO
The Los Angeles Dodgers acquire Victorino from the Phillies for P Josh Lindblom, minor-league P Ethan Martin and a player to be named later or cash.

Victorino will play left field, a position the Dodgers have struggled to get production from (.259 BA ranks 11th in the NL). They’ve also matched a National League high by starting eight players in left field this season.

Over the past five seasons, only seven MLB outfielders have been worth more Wins Above Replacement than Victorino.

JONATHAN BROXTON
The Cincinnati Reds acquire P Jonathan Broxton from the Kansas City Royals for minor-league P Donnie Joseph and minor-league P J.C. Sulbaran.

The Reds get Broxton, but they already have arguably the best bullpen in the majors. Their team ERA (2.66), wins (20) and K/9 IP (10.2) all rank first among MLB bullpens this season.

Other trades Tuesday:
Pittsburgh Pirates acquire 1B Gaby Sanchez and minor-league P Kyle Kaminska from Miami Marlins for minor-league OF Gorkys Hernandez and 2013 Competitive Balance Lottery pick.
St. Louis Cardinals acquire P Edward Mujica from Marlins for minor-league 3B Zack Cox.
Boston Red Sox acquire P Craig Breslow from Arizona Diamondbacks for P Matt Albers and OF Scott Podsednik.
• Pirates acquire P Chad Qualls from New York Yankees for IF Casey McGehee.
Cleveland Indians acquire minor-league 1B Lars Anderson from Red Sox for minor-league P Steven Wright.

US PresswireCarlos Ruiz tags out Norichika Aoki to save a run in the Phillies 7-6 win over the Brewers.
The Philadelphia Phillies had little to celebrate at Citizens Bank Park this season, with a 19-29 home record that ranked last in the NL entering Tuesday. But they found some magic against the Milwaukee Brewers again tonight, scoring six runs in the eighth inning to rally from a season-high five-run deficit in the 7-6 win.

This was the second consecutive game that the Phillies won after trailing by three or more runs in the eighth inning or later. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, they had done that only once before in franchise history, with a pair of walk-off wins over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Baker Bowl in August 1899.

Carlos Ruiz had a three-run, bases-clearing double to tie the score at 6-6. The last Phillies player with a bases-loaded, game-tying double in the eighth inning or later at home was Ron Gant in 1999 against the Atlanta Braves.

Hunter Pence followed Ruiz with the game-winning single for his team-leading fifth go-ahead hit in the eighth inning or later this season. The rest of the Phillies have combined for only four such hits in 2012.

Zack Greinke did his best to keep the Brewers in the game with both his arm and his bat. He tossed seven innings of one-run ball and allowed just three hits, bouncing back after starting the month with a 9.00 ERA in his first four July starts.

Greinke worked the bottom of the strike zone, throwing sixty percent of his pitches in the lower third of the zone or below. The Phillies were hitless in 13 at-bats ending in a pitch to that location, including all five of his strikeouts.

Good news for Brewers fans is that Greinke appears to have put his road woes in the past.

He is 3-1 with a 2.54 ERA in his last eight starts away from Miller Park, a far cry from the 7.03 ERA he posted in his first five road starts this season.

Greinke also chipped in at the plate with his third career home run. It was the first time Cliff Lee allowed a homer to an opposing pitcher in his career.

Speaking of Lee, he was lucky to not get a loss in this game. He allowed 12 hits and four homers, matching his career-highs in both stats. Three of the four longballs came on the first pitch, becoming the first pitcher this season to allow three first-pitch homers in the same game.

National Treasure
The Washington Nationals improved to 8-3 versus the New York Mets this season, as Gio Gonzalez (7 IP, 0 ER, 2 H) earned his 13th win. Gonzalez fell behind 14 hitters 1-0 but battled back to retire 11 of them, allowing only one hit.

The Mets’ post-break slide continues as they have now dropped 11 of their last 12 games. R.A. Dickey (6 IP, 4 ER) lost for the first time in his last 17 starts, also snapping his 11-game win streak. He has a 6.49 ERA in July after posting a 2.15 ERA in the first three months of the season.

Jordany Valdespin tried to rally the Mets with his MLB-leading fifth pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning. The five pinch-hit homers are a Mets single-season record and two shy of the major-league record shared by Dave Hansen (2000 Dodgers) and Craig Wilson (2001 Pirates).

June winds up with pitching flair

June, 29, 2012
6/29/12
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Pitching storylines abound on Friday. With compelling matchups, streaking pitchers and a team that refuses to allow a run, here’s what to watch for on the mound.

Final Stamps on June
R.A. Dickey looks to be the 5th pitcher in Mets history to go 5-0 in June, joining Tom Seaver (1968-69), Ron Darling (1984) and Al Leiter (1999). Only Seaver in 1968 did so with a sub-2.00 ERA.

Dickey’s 1.12 would be the third lowest ever in June by a Mets starter. Opponents have a .353 OPS against him this month, the lowest for any starter in June since Jerry Reuss (.318) in 1980.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Dickey could join Seaver (twice) and Bobby Jones as the only Mets pitchers with 12 wins before the end of June.

Perhaps overshadowed by Dickey’s dominant run, Matt Harrison has a 1.06 ERA this month, on track for a Rangers record. Friday against Oakland, he looks to become the AL’s first 11-game winner. Not bad for a pitcher who was 4-3 with a 5.21 ERA just six weeks ago. Harrison is 6-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last seven starts.

Cliff Lee: Still Winless
Lee is winless in 12 starts this season (0-4 with a 3.72 ERA). That’s the most consecutive starts without a win to start a season by a Phillies pitcher since Matt Beech in 1997 (0-7 in his first 15 starts).

According to Elias, he’s the fourth pitcher to go winless through his first 12 starts with an ERA of 3.72 or lower. The most recent was Rickey Clark (0-8, 3.31) in 1968.

Elias also notes that Lee is the first pitcher in 98 years to pitch at least six innings in 12 consecutive starts of one season and not win any of those games. Prior to Lee, Ray Keating had a streak of 15 straight in 1914.

Price-Verlander Finally Meet
David Price and Justin Verlander are two of the three winningest pitchers in the AL over the last three years, yet this is the first time they will go head-to-head as starters.

Price and Verlander bring uncommon heat for starters. They are two of the six starters to hit 99 mph on the radar gun this season. Verlander’s 101.5 mph pitch is the fastest thrown by a starter in 2012.

Price is 3-1 with a 2.15 ERA in his career against the Tigers, thanks to domination of some key players. Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson and Jhonny Peralta are 2-33 (.061 BA) combined against him.

The Giants’ Shutout Streak
The Giants have thrown four straight shutouts, doing so without ace Matt Cain pitching in any of them. He takes the mound Friday with a 1.25 ERA in June.

According to Elias, the Giants are the first team with four straight shutouts, all against first-place teams. On tap for Friday? In the live-ball era, only the 1974 and 1995 Orioles have thrown five straight shutouts.

Lost velocity clue to Halladay injury, decline

May, 29, 2012
5/29/12
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Howard Smith/US PresswireRoy Halladay, who was placed on the disabled list Tuesday, has struggled with his velocity in 2012.
Roy Halladay was placed on the disabled list Tuesday and is expected to miss six to eight weeks before returning to the Philadelphia Phillies' rotation.

That would be his longest absence from the active roster since missing the second half of the season in 2005 with a fractured tibia. It is the sixth time in his career that Halladay has been placed on the disabled list and first since he missed two weeks in 2009 with a strained groin.

This isn’t the first injury to a key player for the Phillies this season. Philadelphia currently has more than $50 million in salary on the disabled list. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were placed on the DL before the season started, and Cliff Lee missed three weeks earlier this season.

Since joining the Phillies in 2010, Halladay has been the most valuable pitcher in baseball according to Baseball Reference’s wins above replacement. He has accumulated one and a half more wins than Justin Verlander, who is second on the list. Before his injury, the Phillies’ rotation included three of the top five pitchers over the past three seasons.

Halladay has tallied 1,487 regular-season innings since the start of the 2006 season, the most in the majors. He is the only pitcher in the majors to throw at least 220 innings in each of the previous six seasons, with Dan Haren and CC Sabathia each reaching that threshold five times.

The injury helps explain why Halladay didn’t have the normal zip on his fastball early in the season. Combining his fastball and cutter, his average and maximum velocities were down noticeably from the previous two seasons. So far this year, his fastball has averaged 89 mph and peaked at 93. In his first two seasons in Philadelphia, the average was 91 and he regularly touched 95.

With his velocity down, Halladay’s signature cutter was less effective this season. Batters swung less frequently, especially at cutters out of the zone, and had better results when putting it in play.

Halladay’s current numbers are his worst since early in his career with the Toronto Blue Jays. In 11 starts before being placed on the DL, he was 4-5 with a 3.98 ERA. That would be his highest ERA in a season since he posted a 4.20 ERA in 2004. The only time he has finished a season with a losing record was 2000, when he went 4-7 while posting a 10.64 ERA.

Greinke extends historic home streak

May, 20, 2012
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Zack Greinke
Greinke
No team could use a stretch of favorable pitching matchups more than the Minnesota Twins, who entered Sunday with the worst record in the majors at 14-26. But, as teams far better than the Twins have learned the hard way, facing Zack Greinke at Miller Park is anything but favorable for opposing hitters.

Greinke won again at home Sunday, allowing just one run and striking out six as the Milwaukee Brewers smashed the Twins 16-4. It was Greinke’s 18th straight win in a home decision, with the last 14 coming since he arrived in Milwaukee from Kansas City.

With the win, Greinke became the first pitcher to win 18 straight home decisions since Kenny Rogers won 19 consecutive decisions at home with four different teams from 1997 to 2000.

Greinke and Rogers are two of the six pitchers with a win streak of at least 18 in home decisions in the live-ball era (since 1920). They’re joined by Roy Face, Frank Viola, Ray Kremer and Lefty Grove, who had two separate streaks of at least 18 wins in home decisions (18 from 1932-33, 20 from 1938-40).

Greinke hasn’t lost a home start since July 26, 2010, when he allowed eight runs over four innings in a 19-1 loss to the Twins.

Greinke wasn’t the only Brewer to make history Sunday. Jonathan Lucroy drove in seven runs, tying a franchise record. He joined Carlos Ruiz (May 2, 2012) as the only catchers to have at least seven RBI in a game in the last two seasons.

Elsewhere in the majors Sunday, Max Scherzer had a career-high 15 strikeouts, one shy of a Detroit Tigers franchise record, in a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Scherzer induced 26 swings-and-misses, the most by any pitcher this season and the most since Brandon Morrow had 26 on May 5, 2010 vs the Cleveland Indians.

Scherzer became the second AL pitcher to strike out at least 15 in seven or fewer innings in the last 90 years. Baltimore Orioles starter Mike Mussina struck out 15 in seven innings against the Boston Red Sox on September 24, 2000.

In other MLB action Sunday:

" Stephen Strasburg hit his first career home run and earned the win in the Washington Nationals 9-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Strasburg is now hitting .375 this season and has an extra-base hit in four of his last five games.

" Josh Beckett allowed one run on seven hits as the Red Sox beat the Philadelphia Phillies 5-1. Beckett has now won consecutive starts for the first time since August 2011 and has allowed one run in his last 14T innings.

" The Phillies fell to 1-5 in Cliff Lee’s starts this season after he allowed five runs, his most since July 2011, to the Red Sox. The Phillies were 22-10 in Lee’s 32 starts last season.
One of the greatest improvements Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick made from 2010 to 2011 was his effectiveness against left-handed batters. As a right-handed pitcher, it was an issue for him in 2010 as they hit .312 with a .902 OPS and strikeout rate of just under 10 percent. In 2011, those numbers improved to .234 BA, .763 OPS and a 13.0 percent strikeout rate. And entering Monday, his 2012 performance against left-handers had continued to improve, with a .200 BA, .585 OPS and a strikeout rate north of 15 percent. And then the Arizona Diamondbacks came along.

Monday's action stopped Kendrick's improving trend right in its tracks. The Diamondbacks may have been aware of the trends, but they may have been paying attention to a different one - in four career appearances against Arizona, Kendrick had allowed a line of .357/.379/.607 (BA/OBP/SLG) to left-handed hitters, compared to a .234/.333/.404 line against right-handers. On Monday, left-handed batters registered four hits in eight at-bats against Kendrick, including two extra-base hits.

It becomes additionally painful when one considers who was supposed to start Monday's game - Cliff Lee. Not only has Lee held Diamondbacks lefties to a .229/.222/.314 line in his career, very few pitchers have been tougher on lefties overall since Lee came to the National League - he ranks fourth among starters in opponents batting average (.191) and second in OPS (.501).

For some historical perspective on just how ineffective Kendrick's start was, consider that he became the first Phillies starter to allow 10 or more hits and and seven or more earned runs in three or fewer innings pitched since Mike Mimbs did so on May 11, 1996. In fact, it's only the fourth time it's been done since 1980.

Sabathia leaning on slider: CC Sabathia's slider was effective on Monday against the Texas Rangers – he threw it to register six of his eight strikeouts. Sabathia threw a total of 34 sliders, increasing the number of times he's used the pitch for the third consecutive start. It also continues a multi-year trend of increased slider usage; Sabathia threw it 12.9 percent of the time in 2010, 22.9 percent last season and 27.3 percent this season. The merits of such an increase can be debated, but what cannot be is the effectiveness it has had this season – only one qualified starting pitcher has a higher strikeout rate with the slider than Sabathia (Jered Weaver).

Lincecum velocity issues remain: Tim Lincecum’s season-long struggles with his fastball continued in the win over the New York Mets. His average velocity on the pitch continues to drop, going under 90 MPH for the first time since July 2010. Despite the issues with his fastball velocity, Lincecum threw it 70 times, which is 21 more than he used it in his previous 2012 high.

Overall, his average fastball velocity now stands at 90.1 this season, compared to 92.2 last season. He has yet to hit above 93.1 miles per hour this season, whereas he topped out at 96.6 last season.

2011: Year of the Next-Level Note

December, 30, 2011
12/30/11
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One of the things we do in Stats & Information is come up with notes and tidbits that earn the billing of Next Level. These are nuggets that go beyond the box score in an attempt to tell the story of a game, moment, or player in a different manner.

With the calendar year about to end, we went back through our files and found 10 of our favorite Next Level notes.

Justin Verlander no-hitter (May 7)
Justin Verlander
Lincecum
In Verlander’s second career no-hitter, he saved his heat for the end of the game, averaging 99 miles-per-hour with his fastball from the seventh inning on, with five pitches over 100 miles-per-hour.

That made it tough to time his offspeed stuff. The Toronto Blue Jays did not hit a ball out of the infield against any of Verlander's 52 offspeed pitches.

Jason Giambi: among oldest players with a 3-HR game (May 19)
Giambi became the oldest player since the mound was lowered in 1969 to hit three home runs in a game (40 years, 161 days). Giambi hit two of his three home runs on 1-1 counts, notable because over the past three seasons hit .343 with 16 home runs in at-bats ending in an early count.

There was a 194 point difference in Giambi's performance in the first three pitches of an at-bat, compared to beyond that. The typical major leaguer had a difference of 116 points last season.

Wilson Valdez gets the Win (May 25)


Pitch locations for where Wilson Valdez got his outs


In becoming the first player to start a game as a position player and then earn a win in relief since Babe Ruth in 1921, Valdez got through the 19th inning against the Cincinnati Reds unscathed.

Valdez’s nine fastballs were clocked at 87 miles-per-hour (about the same as Freddy Garcia and Shaun Marcum).

When comparing the break and movement, the best comparison to it would probably be the fastball thrown on occasion by New York Mets knuckleball specialist R.A. Dickey.

The image on the right shows the pitch locations where Valdez got outs. All three came on pitches on the edge of the strike zone.

Cliff Lee in June
Lee went 5-0 with an 0.21 ERA in June, one of the best months in major league history.

The success was in large part due to getting fewer swings and more misses on the first pitch from his performance in the first two months. Lee gave up only two hits on the first pitch of an at-bat in June, with an opponents batting average of .154. That was down from .341 in the first two months.

Lee also increased the percentage of first-pitch swings that missed from 20 percent to 31 percent in those time periods.

Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit (July 10)
Jeter’s 3,000th hit was a home run to left field against Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price. Entering the game, just 23 percent of Jeter’s outfield hits went to left field, a drop of nearly 10 percentage points from two seasons prior.

From that point, to the rest of the season, nearly one-third of Jeter’s 85 hits were to right field.

Stephen Strasburg returns (September 6)
On September 6, Strasburg made his return to the big leagues on after missing over a year due to Tommy John surgery throwing five scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers went up hacking against him. Of 17 batters, nine of them swung at the first pitch. The Dodgers also swung at 22 of the 29 pitches Strasburg threw in the zone, his highest rate (76 percent) in a game.

Strasburg’s fastball returned to form, averaging 96.2 miles-per-hour, topping out at 98.7.

Mariano Rivera breaks all-time saves record (September 19)
Rivera became the all-time saves leader in MLB history on September 19 by pitching a perfect 9th inning in the Yankees 6-4 win over the Minnesota Twins.

To get the save, Rivera got a groundout from Trevor Plouffe and a line out from Michael Cuddyer before striking out lefty Chris Parmelee with a 93 mile-per-hour cutter away.

Rivera had been struggling in August, but started throwing his pitches (particularly his cutter, which he throws upwards of 90 percent of the time) to the outside corner much more frequently.

He went from throwing one-third of his pitches on the outer-third of the plate and further away in June and July to nearly 50 percent in August and September.

It worked. Rivera converted 17 of 18 save chances in the season’s last two months.

AL Wild Card Drama (Rays/Red Sox on September 28)
With the Yankees up 7-0 on the Rays in the seventh inning, the Rays win probability was less than one percent.

With the Red Sox up on the Orioles by a run with two outs and no one on base in the ninth inning, their win probability was 94.3 percent (not to mention that Boston was 76-0 when leading after eight innings entering the day).

At that point, the Rays were in some trouble in extra innings, with the Yankees threatening. At that point, Boston's chance of getting at least a one-game playoff was 99 percent.

But as we saw, 99 percent was not a baseball certainty.

Nelson Cruz, ALCS MVP
Cruz was named ALCS MVP after hitting six home runs and driving in 13 runs against the Detroit Tigers.

Cruz did almost of his damage on inside pitches, with five of his six home runs and 11 of his 13 RBI coming on those pitches.

The Cardinals fared considerably better than the Tigers did at pitching Cruz inside. He could not sustain his success into the World Series.

Albert Pujols hits 3 HR in Game 3 of World Series
Pujols became the third player in World Series history to hit three home runs in a game.

Pujols saw 21 pitches in Game 3 and seven were over the middle third (horizontally) of the strike zone, including five fastballs. He took advantage.

Four of Pujols’ five hits in the game came against those pitches, including each of the three home runs.

C.J. Wilson is in position to cash in big

November, 1, 2011
11/01/11
10:57
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C.J. Wilson
Wilson
Despite going 0-3 with a 6.08 ERA in five postseason starts, Texas Rangers ace C.J. Wilson is in a great position this offseason. Wilson is the best starter available on the free agent market, now that CC Sabathia signed an extension with the New York Yankees. His case is aided by the recent history of free-agent spending on starting pitchers.

Going back to the offseason prior to 2006, there have been nine contracts of $50 million or more given to starting pitchers. Excluding Daisuke Matsuzaka -- since he had no major-league statistics to compare prior to coming to MLB -- Wilson’s seasons leading into free agency compare well.

Derek Lowe, Ryan Dempster and Gil Meche are poor comparisons given pre-free agency track record and the return expected around the industry. Wilson will be in his age-31 season in 2012. He’s accumulated 10.5 Wins Above Replacement in the two seasons preceding his free agency, third behind only Sabathia and Lee during the period being analyzed.

Interestingly enough, the three best-compensated pitchers during this period are all left-handers. Barry Zito’s contract is considered among the worst ideas of all-time, which seems to place Wilson in the “gap” between the Sabathia/Lee class and the Burnett/Lackey class.

Wilson’s 10.5 WAR is 29.6 percent higher than Burnett’s 8.1 mark prior to his free agency. If you scale that relative to Burnett's contract, Wilson could expect to receive $21 million per season.

On the flip side, Wilson contributed 76.1 percent of what Lee did prior to his free agency. Based on that, he’d be expected to receive $18 million per season. Splitting the difference, Wilson could be looking at a contract with an average annual value of $19.5 million, or $97.5 million in a five-year deal.

His agent can argue Wilson is superior to the likes of John Lackey and A.J. Burnett -- even without the aid of hindsight -- and thus we’re already starting to look at contracts approaching $90 million.

As we saw with Jayson Werth this past offseason, it only takes one team to change the expected market for a player. As such, don’t be surprised if the Rangers ace lands one of the richest contracts in the history of the sport for his position, particularly given the idea that he has so few innings on his arm relative to most pitchers who reach free agency.


AP Photo/Mike Carlson
Coly Lewis is 4-0 in five career postseason starts over the last two postseasons. Only four other pitchers to debut in the last 80 years have gone 5-0 in their first six postseason starts.

The Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers play Game 3 of the ALCS Tuesday night, with the Rangers leading the series 2-0. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, entering this year, teams up 2-0 in a best-of-seven postseason series have won 58 of the 71 series.

Inside the Series
Texas has won seven of its last nine road postseason games overall, and has won each of its last three Game 3’s. All-time, the Rangers are 6-2 in LCS games. Detroit has won seven of its last eight Game 3’s and in LCS Game 3’s, they are 4-0 (all four of those games were at home, too). Overall, the Tigers have won six of their last eight home postseason games.

On the Mound
Colby Lewis is scheduled to start for the Rangers. Lewis is 4-0 in five starts over the last two postseasons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, among pitchers to debut in the last 80 years, only four – Juan Guzman, Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hernandez and Cliff Lee – have gone 5-0 over their first six career starts in the postseason.

Lewis has allowed two or fewer runs in each of his first five career postseason starts. That’s tied for the second-longest streak to begin a postseason career, behind only the six starts of Sandy Koufax.

Against Detroit, Lewis is 2-2 with a 7.48 in six games (five starts) in his career. However, Lewis struggled with the Tigers this season, going 0-1 with a 15.95 ERA in two starts. One player Lewis has struggled with, especially this year, is Alex Avila, who is hitting .333 (3-for-9) in his career against the righty. Two of Avila’s three hits against Lewis are home runs, with both coming this season.

For Detroit, Doug Fister takes the mound for his second career postseason start. In his first start (Game 5 of the ALDS against the New York Yankees), Fister allowed only one earned run in five innings. Fister is 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA in two starts against the Rangers this season.

Players to Watch
The Rangers bullpen has not allowed a run in the ALCS so far. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Texas’s relievers combined for 12⅔ scoreless innings in its first two games against Detroit. No team has ever combined for more relief innings in the first two games of a postseason series without allowing a run. The previous best mark for a team’s bullpen had been the 1984 San Diego Padres, whose relievers pitched 12⅓ innings in the first two games of the 1984 World Series, which coincidentally was also against the Tigers.

For Detroit, Austin Jackson has struggled to begin his postseason career, striking out 14 times in 25 career at-bats. The only players with more K’s in their first 25 career at-bats are Reggie Sanders (17) and Darryl Strawberry (15).
Max Scherzer
Scherzer
Saturday marked the third time the Detroit Tigers have lost in Game 1 of the ALCS. Bad news for Tigers fans, they went on to lose each of the two previous series, 1987 to the Minnesota Twins and 1972 vs the Oakland Athletics.

Still this is a familiar position for the Tigers this postseason and they will again turn to Max Scherzer to bail them out of a 1-0 series hole.

Schherzer was up to the challenge in the ALDS against the New York Yankees throwing six scoreless innings while allowing only two hits. He became the third pitcher to do so in a postseason game against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium (other two are Warren Spahn and Cliff Lee).

In that Division Series start against the Yankees, Scherzer relied on his changeup to neutralize a Yankees lineup loaded with tough left-handed hitters. Yankees lefties were 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in at-bats ending with a Scherzer changeup and missed on five of their 11 swings against the pitch.

Scherzer threw his changeup 26 percent of the time in his two LDS appearances, well above his season average of 20 percent, but he'll likely feature it less against a righty-heavy Texas Rangers lineup.

In three starts against the Rangers this season, Scherzer is throwing his changeup just 15 percent of the time, the least often of any opponent he's faced at least twice.

Instead, expect to see more fastballs and sliders from Scherzer, which could be trouble for the righty, as the Rangers have pummeled his fastball this season.

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