=== Proliferation, Dept. ===
Here are Lee's 10 strikeouts on Friday. Visualizing the strike zone as a 3-D box, the strikeout pitches appeared in these locations:
- Matsui: back of zone (91 mph), inside on hands, jam pitch
- Abreu: front of zone, inside black, high (85 change), doesn't swing
- Hunter: front of zone, far away (swung over an 85 deadfish change)
- Morales: front of zone (85 change), away, swung over it
- Matsui: wayyyy front of zone (79 curve), looks waist high, drops into dirt
- Napoli: middle depth, away (87 cutter)
- Aybar: back of zone behind the plate, very high ladder pitch (91 fastball)
- Abreu: wayyyy front of zone, waist high, doesn't swing, guarding rear of zone
- Hunter: back of zone (92 mph), outside
- Morales: back of zone (91 mph), neck high
When you ask, what can Lee strike batters out with, the answer is different than it is for other pitchers. Like Pedro Martinez, Lee can strike you out with anything. If you're guarding the back of the zone, and get an offspeed pitch, your bat is going to be in an alternate timeline. If you're waiting to guard the zone at any depth, he's going to blow the ball past you.
He gets more K's with that weird little 85-86 change/cutter, a pitch I don't understand, than he does with anything else. :- )
But obviously his curve ball is a strikeout pitch, and the fastball gets plenty of K's because (A) it's located just off the zone and (B) hitters have the offspeed game in their heads.
I don't see any reason he wouldn't put up several 8-10K performances the rest of the way. Man, he's practically Erik Bedard out there these days.
=== Rob'bed ===
A completely separate subject is the fact that Lee sets up these 1-2 strikeouts in dozens of different ways. Take, for instance, his two strikeouts on ladder pitches. He struck out both Aybar and Morales on 91-92 fastballs up out of the zone, but let's check the paths by which he arrived:
Aybar: FB a bit too high, foul, 0-1 ..... Change/cutter hi, foul, 0-2 .... Here it is! FB hi? Whoops! Way toooo high! Swing under it, strike three.
Morales: Change hi 1-0 ... FB down 1-1 ... Change hi 1-2 ... Here it is!, Change hi? Whoops! Nope! FB hi! Late swing, strike three.
Or, Lee struck out three guys on change/cutters outside, the Jamie Moyer pitch. Check out how many ways the batters were thinking as we arrived up to the deadfish strikeout:
Hunter: three inside fastballs for 0-2 ... then the deadfish pitch away, swung over the top.
Morales: Change away called 0-1 ... double up!, change again, ready for it, but farther outside fouled off 0-2 ... wouldn't triple up would he? Yep! off the plate, swing, strike three.
Napoli: Change out ... change in ... ladder pitch for 1-2... what now? Deadfish change away, strike three.
It's no exaggeration to say that there are dozens of pitch sequences that Rob Johnson has available to him with Cliff Lee pitching.
Do you suppose that Rob Johnson gets any credit for the fact that Cliff Lee is pitching the most dangerous ball of his life? Do you suppose that, if this is true, that Cliff Lee might get so he wants to throw to Rob Johnson in the future?