Cliff Lee Is Mr. October

It is usually the hitters who become ingrained in our collective memory when it comes to post-season heroics. Cue montages of Reggie Jackson, Carlton Fisk, and Kirk Gibson. Even for the Phillies, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz have been receiving most of the kudos for the deep run into the post-season. Captain Clutch this year, however, is not Derek Jeter nor is it Ruiz and Howard; it is one Clifton Phifer Lee.

Lee threw all nine innings, struck out ten Yankees, walked none, allowed only six hits, and the Yankees managed a meager one run — a meaningless run — in the ninth. The best offense in baseball was reduced to a series of swings-and-misses and weakly-hit grounders. Cliff was on his game from the start and didn’t let up until the game was in the bag.

Chase Utley took the edge off with solo home runs in the third and sixth innings off of C.C. Sabathia, accounting for the first two runs the Phillies scored. The Phillies gave Lee breathing room in the eighth when Raul Ibanez knocked in two with a bases loaded single to right field, and again in the ninth on an RBI single by Shane Victorino and an RBI double by Ryan Howard.

Lee went the distance for the second time this post-season and has yet to leave the game prior to the eighth inning. For all the clamoring for Roy Halladay near the trading deadline, GM Ruben Amaro is looking like a modern day Nostradamus for his sly acquisition of Cliff Lee (and hey, Ben Francisco too). Clifton now has 30 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings of work and a paltry 0.5 WHIP.

The Phillies’ ace threw 121 pitches:

  • 48 four-seam fastballs, 40%
  • 14 two-seam fastballs, 12%
  • 24 sliders, 20%
  • 20 change-ups, 17%
  • 15 curve balls, 12%

How did Lee attack the Yankees’ left-handed hitters as opposed to their right-handers?

  • 36 total pitches
  • 21 four-seam fastballs, 58%
  • 2 two-seam fastballs, 6%
  • 3 change-ups, 8%
  • 3 curve balls, 8%
  • 7 sliders, 19%

  • 85 total pitches
  • 27 four-seam fastballs, 32%
  • 12 two-seam fastballs, 14%
  • 17 change-ups, 20%
  • 12 curve balls, 14%
  • 17 sliders, 20%

Of the pitches left-handed hitters made contact with, 67% (6 of 9) were on fastballs. Right-handed hitters only made contact with 31% fastballs (4 of 13). This shouldn’t be surprising because Lee, over the course of his career, has a near-even split against LH (.714 OPS) and RH (.733 OPS) batters.

The Phillies once again win Game One of a post-season series and now have just three more wins to go before hoisting another World Series trophy above their heads. Should they reach that pinnacle, they will heartily thank Mr. October, Cliff Lee.

Suggested Reading Material

Game graph above courtesy FanGraphs.

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