Scouting Report: Cliff Lee - Sports Illustrated

Scouting Report: Cliff Lee

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Latest in a series of scouting reports provided to by the network of former players, coaches, scouts and executives at the Baseline Group. For a report on AL Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria, click here.

Current: Good

Projected: Good

Categorization Scale

• Elite: top one or two pitchers in the game (Roy Halladay)

• Premium: top ten pitcher (Jake Peavy,Dan Haren)

• Good: top of the rotation guy; occasional All-Star (Daisuke Matsuzaka, Mike Mussina)

• Average: back of the rotation guy (Oliver Perez, Jarrod Washburn)

• Key role: occasional starter (Julian Tavarez -- 2006-2007)

Cliff Lee was the Indians' best starter in 2008, all the more amazing given that he had been demoted to the minors in 2007. His American League ranking in key categories:

• 1st in Wins (22)

• 1st in ERA (2.54)

• 1st in Won-Loss % (.880)

• 2nd in WHIP (1.110)

• 5th in K/9 (8.09)

• 2nd in Innings (223.3)

• 1st in Adjusted ERA (175)

Compare that performance to his 2007: 5-8 with a 6.29 ERA, 1.521 WHIP and 73 ERA+. Lee suffered in 2007 because he was inconsistent with his approach on the mound. He didn't have a pitching plan and/or he didn't stick with the plan. He was simply throwing the ball and hoping he got outs. Unless you're a very physically gifted pitcher (one who throws in the upper 90's), which Lee is not, your performance is going to suffer.

In 2008 Lee had that consistent approach -- the way he watched the opposition, evaluated himself and trusted the things he does well. He had a plan and stuck with it. It's an old school scouting term, but Lee experienced "development" in 2008.

Though Lee had a premium year, he is not categorized as a premium pitcher. To do so he needs to demonstrate that he can repeat this level of performance.

• Creates a plus angle

• Very good command of his pitches

• Above average fastball and slider

• Holds runners close --difficult to run on

• Not overpowering

• No legitimate outpitch

• Movement: Will show cut action over the plate and to gloveside; uses a two-seam fastball with small sink to armside.

• Command: Shows plus command to both sides of the plate; it is his best asset; uses this pitch inside off the plate to right-handed hitters

• Movement: Small depth and break; below average movement

• Command: Good command; shows best command to his gloveside; this pitch is used best off the plate as a backfoot slider to right-handed hitters

• Plan: Used as an outpitch and swing and miss pitch; very effective when he works at a good quick pace.

• Movement: Small sink to his arm side; average movement.

• Command: Good command; capable of using this pitch in and out of the strike zone.

• Plan: He'll use it when ahead of the hitters as an outpitch; he likes to set up his changeup with a cut fastball inside off the plate to right-handed hitters; he doesn't like to use this pitch first time around the order unless he's in trouble.

• Movement: Big 1-7 type break with good depth and average break.

• Command: Thrown to both sides of the plate for strikes but commanded best to his gloveside; doesn't use it as much as an outpitch as for strikes in middle counts

• Whether he has runners on base or not, he likes to start left-handed hitters away with either a fastball or cut fastball.

• He'll pitch in off the plate more effectively to right-handed hitters than lefties.

• We have not seen him throw two strikes of the same type in the same location back to back very often.

• Good fielder. He gets off the mound well to both sides.

• Better than average pick-off move to first base and will give an extra look with runners on second.

• Doesn't use a slide step to the plate, but it's a very quick move (slight lift prior to going home).

• With no runners on base: Establishes his fastball; uses his off-speed in middle counts; pitches to contact with his fastball or cut fastball.

• With runners in scoring position: Uses off-speed early; hard in middle counts off the plate; finishes with off-speed