Cliff Lee can be described as a surgeon. Hitters may feel more like he’s performing a vivisection, but that’s just a matter of perspective. Lee’s impressive collection of scalpels includes a cutter, curve, sinker, change-up and slider.
But it’s his fifth pitch, a four-seam fastball, which is our focal point for the moment. Specifically, where he throws it and when. And to whom. So three focal points. Stop counting.
Here are the basics on Lee’s arsenal
And a look at his fastball usage over time
While the overall trend has been almost linear, he has two plateaus in his splits, but in different time frames. This is not a man who likes to reach for the four-seamer much as time has gone by. This makes further analysis rather tricky—shrinking samples.
Outside of a big drop in one set of situations (behind in the count), Lee was shedding heaters all over the place.
The lack of the four-seam fastball on full counts to left-handed hitters in 2011 may be the most striking point of data in this survey of Lee.
And notice how the locations (on any count) go from glove side (catcher’s left, away from left-handed hitters and in to right-handed) toward hand side over time.
Why he did this and how it impacted his performance (overall or situationally) may merit further discussion and research.